Police push for damages payment

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 15/09/2012

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Police were the driving force behind Greenpeace being asked to pay $700,000 in damages after the environmental group's Port Taranaki protest in February, it has been revealed.

Actor Lucy Lawless and seven others have pleaded guilty to illegally boarding the drill-ship Noble Discoverer, which delayed its departure from the port to the Arctic.

They changed their plea to guilty after the charge was reduced from one of burglary.

The group, who remained on the top of the drilling rig for four days, were protesting Shell's intention to drill for oil in Arctic waters.

The group were due to be sentenced yesterday but this has now been postponed until November 22.

A police media spokesman would not discuss the case until after sentencing.

Shell NZ spokeswoman Shona Geary, of Wellington, yesterday said the $700,000 reparation was a police matter.

Police requested a victim impact statement from Shell to the court for the sentencing hearing, she said.

"This is a police prosecution and we were asked on behalf of STOS [Shell Todd Oil Services] to provide a victim impact statement, which we have done."

The statement outlined safety issues caused by the protest, the impact on the company of the delay and an estimate of what those delays might have cost, she said.

At the time of the four-day protest, the ship was being prepared to leave port to head to the Arctic and those activities were disrupted, she said.

"Work did stop for a period of time."

Limited work continued, the priority being to ensure the safety of everyone on board - both workers and the protesters, she said.

Greenpeace would not comment further until sentencing, on legal advice.

The Noble Discoverer has been involved in at least two near-miss incidents.

While in Taranaki waters it broke its moorings during a storm.

And in July, the ship slipped its moorings in the Arctic, drifting close to the shore in the Aleutian Islands.

Shell announced on Sunday that a Noble Discoverer drill bit was the first to touch the sea floor in the Chukchi Sea in more than two decades. It was the culmination of Shell's six-year effort to explore for potentially significant oil and gas reserves believed to lie under Alaska's Outer Continental Shelf, Shell said.

However, Shell then announced it had temporarily moved the drill ship off the Burger-A well to avoid encroaching sea ice.

The move was precautionary in accordance with the Chukchi Sea Ice Management Plan, Shell said.

Once the ice moved on, the ship would reconnect and continue drilling.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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