Outrage at threat to close port

Port Taranaki is in strict compliance with its legal obligations under this security level.
Port Taranaki is in strict compliance with its legal obligations under this security level.

Down at Ngamotu Beach and eastwards to Breakwater Bay, Port Taranaki's tough stance is yet to be digested by the hundreds of people taking advantage of another magnificent summer's day near the sea.

At the beach and on the grassed reserve, all 117 the kids from Egmont Village School, their parents and teachers are in full fun mode enjoying their annual picnic day.

Nearby, on the tidy grassed area sporting its new toilets and shiny white concrete ramps leading to the expansive sandy beach and benign waves, people are setting up for today's sports event, the Wells New Plymouth half- ironman.

Just 300 metres or so to the east, the boat ramp providing access to the enclosed waters of Port Taranaki and further afield is busy with all manner of vessels coming and going.

It's obvious there are plenty out to sea. The nearby car park is half full with parked vehicles and trailers.

The lee breakwater has its fair share of walkers, fishers and dogs all enjoying the bright skies and calm seas.

Down at the waterfront yesterday, people approached by the paper were mostly unaware of the controversial square-off between Lucy Lawless and her impassioned Greenpeace activists on the one side and their targets Port Taranaki, New Plymouth-based Shell Todd Oil Services and Shell on the other.

All were enjoying their day out by the sea and were horrified at the thought the port could be closed off to them in future because of the Greenpeace action.

Graham Morris, tending to his trailer-sailor Serendipity in the Breakwater Bay car park, was unimpressed with the port's stance.

"That's ridiculous. It would destroy people's access and enjoyment of the sea and the beach. It's an absolute over-reaction," he said. "It would be very sad to see them close it down."

While he agreed with Greenpeace sentiments to leave the Arctic alone, he suggests there are many other ways the environmental lobbyists could bring their views to the world.

"For instance they could sponsor a decent documentary. There are plenty of other ways to do it."

Mr Morris blames the beefing up of port security on the 9/11 terrorist action in the United States which has already led to closing off the main breakwater to the community.

Port Taranaki did come in for praise in that a small jetty aimed at giving kids a fishing platform had been constructed.

Heading home after a day's fishing on the lee breakwater with her new fishing rod, Carol Earley and her daughter Aimie, accompanied by Levi the dog, agreed the threat to close the area could only be a knee-jerk reaction by port authorities.

"There would be so much uproar if they did it," Ms Earley said.

But Greenpeace would be well advised to protest where it would not hurt the community in future.

"They might be protecting something but it's affecting us."

Aimie Earley said she was "gutted" to hear they might no longer be able to enjoy the area. "This is what we're all about," she said.

At the beach, Hine Beard, of Egmont Village, her 20-month-old son Micaiah on her knee, was shocked to hear her family may not longer enjoy the safe beach.

"It would be a shame, very sad. A beach is a beach. It's for families. I've been coming here ever since I've had kids," she said.

Egmont Village teacher Amanda Passau took time out from beach volleyball on the grass to rave about what she says is the perfect spot for the school's annual beach day.

To lose it would be devastating, she said.

"We haven't found anywhere else with the facilities we need. We come here every year because the kids just love it. Every five-year- old feels secure here."

On a personal note, Ms Passau says Greenpeace needs to take their protests somewhere else.

The port provided lifeblood to the region. "This is a lifeline for us here," she said.

"Their reckless act has had a direct impact on our children."

Maritime New Zealand, responsible for administering the Maritime Security Act 2004, the purpose of which is to prevent international terrorism, said yesterday that Port Taranaki had advised MNZ that as a result of their review into the protest action changes had been made to security.

"Wider security issues have to be balanced with the need to maintain day-to-day port operations," a spokesman said.

Taranaki Daily News