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Government Bid To Criminalise Sea Protests Slammed

9 April 2013

Government Bid To Criminalise Sea Protests Slammed

Move Against International Law, Says Legal Advice

A range of well-known New Zealand groups and individuals have today slammed the government’s controversial move to criminalise aspects of peaceful protests at sea.

In a joint statement, Greenpeace, Rt Hon Geoffrey Palmer QC, Peter Williams QC, WWF, Forest and Bird, Dame Anne Salmond, Rikirangi Gage of Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Sir Ngatata Love, the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, George Armstrong (founder of the Peace Squadron), Amnesty International NZ, Lucy Lawless and many others, say that Simon Bridges’ “new law is a sledgehammer designed to attack peaceful protest” and is “being bundled through Parliament without proper scrutiny despite its significant constitutional, democratic and human rights implications.”

The amendments to the Crown Minerals Bill, announced by Simon Bridges on Easter Sunday, “breach international law, and attack our democratic freedoms” say the group.

New legal advice, also released today, “finds that the proposed amendments to the Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land) Bill would breach international law in a number of respects.”

The Crown Minerals Bill, due to be debated in Parliament today, will create new offences against protest activity in the seas around New Zealand, up to 200 miles from shore.

Greenpeace Executive Director Bunny McDiarmid called the law, “an affront to New Zealand democracy, and to our long held right and proud tradition of peaceful protest at sea.”

“This would affect the very same people who took their boats to seas to confront nuclear ships in our harbours and sailed against French nuclear testing in the Pacific.

“The moratoriums on commercial whaling and drift-netting are further historical achievements that were only possible because of the right to sea-borne protest.

“The most risky activity in the deep-sea for our economy and way of life is not peaceful protest, it’s deep-sea oil drilling. You’d have to be some kind of knucklehead not to realise that,” said McDiarmid.

The new laws are being proposed after the departure of Brazilian oil giant Petrobras. A flotilla of protest vessels including several yachts and Te Whanau a Apanui fishing vessel the San Pietro confronted seismic testing by Petrobras off the East Cape in 2010.

The proposals include penalties up to $50,000 for an individual, up to 12 months imprisonment and up to $100,000 for a body corporate, and enable the Navy or a police officer to nominate assistants who can stop and detain a ship entering an exclusion zone, remove a person from an exclusion zone. All these parties carry next to no criminal or civil liabilities for anything that happens as a result.


The full text of the joint statement, plus the signatories, is below.


Statement on Crown Minerals Bill Amendment 2013

In defence of the right to peaceful protest at sea

This proposed new law is an assault on the honourable Kiwi values of having a say and being able to stand up for our country.

Simon Bridges’ new law is a sledgehammer designed to attack peaceful protest at sea. It is being bundled through Parliament without proper scrutiny despite its significant constitutional, democratic and human rights implications.

New Zealanders have a rich history of protesting at sea. It is a part of who we are. The boats that set sail to stop French nuclear testing led to a proud legacy that defines us, and our country.

The proposed amendments breach international law, and attack our democratic freedoms.

That’s why we, the below signed, strongly oppose Simon Bridges’ proposed amendment to the Crown Minerals Bill.


George Armstrong, Founder Peace Squadron

Rt. Hon. Geoffrey Palmer QC

Peter Williams QC

Rikirangi Gage, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui

Sir Ngatata Love

Dame Anne Salmond

Jeanette Fitzsimons

Bryan Gould, Former Chancellor of Waikato University

Lucy Lawless

WWF-New Zealand

Forest and Bird


Coal Action Network Aotearoa

Coromandel Watchdog of Hauraki

Peace Movement Aotearoa

NZ Council of Trade Unions, Helen Kelly

Sustainability Council, Simon Terry

Amnesty International NZ



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