Greenpeace activists blockade petroleum conference in Auckland
Greenpeace activists blocked entrances to the Petroleum New Zealand Conference at SkyCity on Monday, leaving oil delegates waiting patiently outside.
The blockade action started at 7.30am on Monday with dozens of protesters sitting in the doorways of several entrances to the building. Police set up a cordoned-off entrance for conference delegates and SkyCity visitors.
The protesters brought placards in the style of popular game Cards Against Humanity with messages about fossil fuels and climate change. They were in high spirits, sitting by the cordon singing songs, chanting and clapping.
Several were trespassed from the SkyCity walkway bridge though police have not made any arrests.
The sit-in protest wrapped up at about 11am, despite Greenpeace spokesman Steve Abel earlier saying they were intending to wait at SkyCity all day.
He said they felt their message was heard and they had caused enough of a hindrance.
"The decision was made to leave in a dignified manner. This is it for today, until our next direct action event," he said.
Abel said protesters were publicly opposing the Government's continued investment in drilling, despite the industry's failure to find any deep sea oil.
"We have a government and an oil industry hell-bent on drilling for the very oil that must stay in the ground if we're going to avoid climate change causing human catastrophe," he said.
"It's mad that John Key continues to prop [the industry] up. Climate change is the defining struggle of our generation and it needs to be dealt with now. We know that public participation is one of the most effective tools for creating change."
Abel said it was first time in New Zealand that Greenpeace had invited the public to take civil disobedience action en masse.
"So it's a different level of protest," he said. "It's a risk. It's potentially arrestable."
"It's a form of non violent protesting in the tradition of Ghandi or Martin Luther King."
However, the protesters did not stop Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges attending the conference to launch the 2016 Block Offer petroleum tender.
He announced four offshore areas available for companies to tender for petroleum exploration permits: the Reinga-Northland Basin, Taranaki Basin, Pegasus and East Coast Basins, and Great South-Canterbury Basin. There is also one onshore release area in Taranaki.
"Since it was first introduced in 2012, the annual Block Offer has provided an effective way for the Government to strategically manage how we allocate petroleum exploration permits. It creates consistency for industry while ensuring we are attracting highly capable companies," Mr Bridges said in a statement.
"Oil remains a significant export earner in New Zealand and natural gas is a vital input to industry, electricity generation and is used in more than 300,000 homes."
Bridges said the block offer was not about "development at any cost" and had followed consultation with iwi and local authorities.
"In recent years, the Government has built a world-class regulatory framework to provide for oil and gas development, while ensuring our unique environment is protected and workplace health and safety standards are high."