How a bid to save the Arctic puts a beach in jeopardy

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 08:18 09/02/2013

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Repeated security breaches by Greenpeace will inevitably lead to the end of free access to the beach and boats, Port Taranaki warns.

"The recreational value of the beach and the open access to the waters of the harbour is today a privilege enjoyed by our community which has been put in jeopardy by the actions of Greenpeace," the port says in its hard-hitting victim impact statement to the court.

Lucy Lawless and seven others were sentenced in the New Plymouth District Court to community work this week admitting they illegally boarded the Noble Discoverer at the port last February.

Greenpeace took advantage of the public access to the port in New Plymouth and that would now change, the statement says.

"The consequence of the repeated and premeditated security breaches by Greenpeace in and around Port Taranaki (four incidents in the last 2 1/2 years) will inevitably lead to consideration being given by the port to the installation of further fences and security measures to extend the secure area," the statement says.

The steps taken will not only incur significant capital cost for the owners, the Taranaki Regional Council, but will inevitably impact on the current free public access to Ngamotu Beach and the boat ramp on the Lee Breakwater.

Port Taranaki chief executive Roy Weaver said yesterday the port was pleased to note that in sentencing the Greenpeace protesters this week Judge Allan Roberts recognised that the security of New Zealand's ports, which service international exporters and importers, was an integral part of the operation of these ports and was a requirement of international maritime law.

"We have tried to impress on Greenpeace that this community values both the port's international trade links and open recreational access for the public to the port area very highly.

"We keep port and shipping security at a level commensurate with risk. The higher the risk of security breaches the tighter our security measures need to be."

If the risk to shipping rises because of the actions of Greenpeace, "then both our international trade links and our open public access policy may well be threatened unless we increase security to combat the threat", Mr Weaver said.

"After last year's incident, where Greenpeace breached port security, forcibly broke into the port and boarded the Noble Discoverer, we made sure that they were fully aware of the threat that their actions posed to this community. To date they have respected that and not threatened port security again," Mr Weaver said.

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A year ago, Lucy Lawless, known for her role as Zena Warrior Princess, dressed up in a new role. Unashamedly using her international reputation to gain maximum exposure, and acting as leader of a dedicated bunch of Greenpeace warriors, they broke through a security gate and conned their way on to the drill ship.

For nearly three days they sat atop the 50m-high drilling rig derrick giving interviews to chosen media, their banners declaring their stance to the world.

The ship was an obvious target.

Workers had been busy loading the vessel for its voyage to Alaskan waters to drill for oil on behalf of Shell.

The group eventually came down, their job highlighting the dangers of drilling for oil in Arctic waters done. It was a master stroke gaining attention far more than in their wildest dreams, Lawless said this week. She added she was sorry that their actions might affect the community's right to the port- owned facilities but that the protest was necessary for all communities into the future.

On Thursday the Greenpeace activists took their medicine in the New Plymouth District Court. Each now has a conviction for illegally boarding a ship (reduced from burglary) and were sentenced to 120 hours community work. They will also share the costs incurred by Port Taranaki.

- Taranaki Daily News

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