Protest flotilla ready to defend Raglan's coastline
Protestors vow to 'defend the ocean'ELTON SMALLMAN
A flotilla of protesters is promising to defend the ocean from deep-sea oil exploration as an Anadarko vessel sets a course for their location.
The flotilla of ocean-going yachts, which include the Greenpeace yacht Vega, raced the drillship the Noble Bob Douglas to the site at the Romney Prospect, 110 nautical miles off the Raglan coast, at the weekend.
Greenpeace executive director Bunny McDiarmid, who was on one of the six boats, said they planned a peaceful protest where Anadarko will drill in 1500 metre of water in what will be New Zealand's deepest well.
"Our objective is to faithfully defend our oceans and our coastline, defend our climate, defend out future generations against very risky and unnecessary deep-sea oil drilling," she said.
Changes to the Crown Minerals Act, known as the Anadarko Amendment, limits protest activity in New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone and requires all boats to remain 500m clear of drilling operations.
"Seeing as the ship is not here yet there is no restricted zone where we are. We're just sailing off the coast of New Zealand in very beautiful water."
The Oil Free Seas flotilla was a loose alliance who wanted to halt exploration and said coastal communities would suffer in a major spill. "The Raglan community and that coastline there would be in the direct path of any major oil spill if it should happen so they have a lot to lose."
Former Green party leader Jeanette Fitzsimons was also on the flotilla and said Anadarko threatened her grandchildren's right to a clean environment.
Anadarko's drilling ship the Noble Bob Douglas was 50 nautical miles off New Plymouth last night and was due to depart overnight.
They will set up in the permitted area and corporate affairs manager Alan Seay expected everything to run smoothly.
"We respect their right to protest and I'd ask that they respect our right to go about our lawful business and respect the safety zone that will be around the Noble Bob Douglas," he said.
"I do understand that they are not allowed to interfere with that location that they must move off when the drillship arrives so we very much hope that that is what happens otherwise they will be interfering."