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Activists Picket FarmRight, Demand End To Use Of Western Sahara Blood Phosphate

Protesters today picketed the FarmRight head office in Ōtautahi Christchurch to call on FarmRight to cease using phosphate fertiliser illegally sourced from Western Sahara on the farms it manages. The protest was in solidarity with the Polisario Front, the Western Sahara liberation movement, who are in the High Court in Auckland today taking legal action against the New Zealand Superannuation Fund to stop the import of so-called 'blood phosphate'.

FarmRight manages a large number of farms owned by the New Zealand Superannuation Fund and is a significant customer for Ballance Agri-Nutrients’ phosphate fertilisers. The phosphate bought by Ballance is mined in Western Sahara by Morocco, which invaded Western Sahara in 1975 and has illegally occupied and exploited the country since that time.

Spokesperson Josie Butler stated: "I want New Zealand to do the right thing for the people of Western Sahara. It damages the international reputation of New Zealand to continue to import phosphate from the occupied territory. It is funding war crimes. We should be changing to other sources of phosphate and also moving to farming methods that reduce the use of synthetic fertiliser. I would love it if FarmRight showed leadership on this issue."

Most other countries have long since suspended this unethical trade. "The majority of the local Sahrawi people have been forced off their land and many are in refugee camps in Algeria," said Catherine Low of Extinction Rebellion Ōtautahi. "The Sahrawi remaining in their occupied country are subject to persecution and human rights violations. It’s shocking that we in Aotearoa New Zealand are enabling this."

By buying blood phosphate, New Zealand is the last country in the western world supporting this injustice. Local fertiliser companies Ravensdown and Ballance Agri-Nutrients continue to import about $30 million worth of the stolen phosphate rock annually, with the latest shipment due to arrive in Tauranga at the beginning of November.

Today's peaceful protest was organised by Western Sahara Solidarity Aotearoa, with support from Extinction Rebellion Ōtautahi, to coincide with legal action being taken in the High Court by representatives of Western Sahara against the Guardians of the New Zealand Superannuation Fund. The plaintiff argues that the Super Fund is contravening its Responsible Investment Framework by supporting Morocco's occupation of Western Sahara.

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