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Confrontations intensify over deep sea oil drilling in New Zealand

By Lucy Brake - 13 Apr 2011 12:58:0 GMT
Confrontations intensify over deep sea oil drilling in New Zealand

Greenpeace is protesting the drilling for deep sea reserves of natural gas by a state-controlled Brazilian company, Petrobras, reported Television New Zealand (TVNZ) earlier this week. Activists in the Ruakumara Basin off the East Cape of New Zealand were able to stop the seismic survey vessel Orient Explorer from carrying out its work by swimming in front of it.

The action by the environmentalists has already been underway for one week and included what Greenpeace are calling a ''peaceful direct action'' with the support of a local indigenous Maori tribe, te Whanau a Apanui. The New Zealand Military sent in their Airforce Orion to undertake surveillance of the situation with the flotilla and the New Zealand Police has now headed out on a navy boat off the East Cape to monitor the confrontations.

The Police have instructed the activists' boats to stay away from the Brazilian oil survey ship as well as its supporting vessel. Superintendent Barry Taylor said to the Television New Zealand that ''the notices were served to ensure the safety of people and property are not endangered''. Failure to comply with the police notices could end up in a spell in prison for the activists.

Conservationists are concerned that an incident similar to last year's massive disaster in the Gulf of Mexico when an exploratory well exploded has all the potential to happen in New Zealand.

A spokesperson for Greenpeace, Bunny McDiarmid, said that ''this is the first deep water drilling New Zealand is engaged in and there are a whole slew of others waiting to come''.

The New Zealand government is supporting the oil company's work which the Prime Minister John Key has called ''a legitimate survey''. He criticised the actions of the activists citing the five year licence that Petrobras has to look for oil and gas.

At this stage the Greenpeace activists appear to be willing to hold their ground against the deep sea oil drilling. They are keen to draw the public's attention to what is happening out off the coast of New Zealand and it seems like they are getting their wish.