Greenpeace NZ boss faces jail time over ‘Amazon Warrior’ stand-off

Russel Norman in the water with the Amazon Warrior in the background; Image: Greenpeace

Greenpeace New Zealand’s chief executive Russel Norman could face jail time after jumping into the sea in front of the Amazon Warrior seismic vessel.

Greenpeace said on Monday that Norman and several other Greenpeace activists took to the water some 50 nautical miles off the Wairarapa coast to intercept the 125-meter vessel during seismic blasting operations.

As a result of the swimmers’ position, the Amazon Warrior was forced to halt its operations and deviate off course.

According to Greenpeace, during seismic blasting, the seafloor is hit with sound waves every eight seconds and the seismic campaign, being carried out for Statoil and Chevron, lets off sound blasts comparable to an underwater volcano and can cause chronic distress to whales and dolphins in the area.

For the data to be useable, the vessel needs to travel in straight lines along a grid to discover potential oil reserves. Any deviation makes the data unusable, the organization emphasized.

In response to the actions by Greenpeace, investigators from the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment of New Zealand charged Russel Norman with interfering with operations of the Amazon Warrior under the Crown Minerals Act. The maximum penalty for such an offense is 12 months imprisonment or a fine not exceeding AUD 50,000.

A 2013 Amendment to the Crown Minerals Act, dubbed the ‘Anadarko Amendment,’ was put in place to stop protests at sea around oil exploration. The law change makes it an offense to interfere with or get closer than 500 meters of an offshore ship involved in oil exploration.

Greenpeace also added that Statoil and Chevron have permits to drill to extreme depths of up to three kilometers if oil is found which is twice as deep as the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico.

The organization also took a swing at U.S. President Donald Trump who, Greenpeace claims, has shares in Chevron which funded a large part of his presidential inauguration.


Activists vs. “The Beast”

Activists have been locking horns with the Amazon Warrior, nicknamed “The Beast” by the Greenpeace, for months now.

Greenpeace used two rigid-hulled inflatables to cut off the seismic vessel back in January while Maori activists used a Te Matau a Māui, a traditional double-hulled ocean voyaging canoe, to confront The Beast on April 3.

According to Monday’s statement, Greenpeace has been tailing the vessel for two days in its newest boat, Taitu.

From on board Taitu, Norman said: “Neither the Government nor the oil industry can stifle people across New Zealand peacefully rising up against this mad pursuit of new oil to burn in the midst of what is nothing less than a climate emergency.

“Climate change threatens our homes, health, and families. Despite knowing this, our Government is actively subsidizing oil companies to look for new oil, putting profits above people’s lives – it has become necessary for people to take action.

“In New Zealand, we’ve already seen extreme storms, flooding, drought, and fires in the space of a just a few weeks, and it’s only April. Climate change makes these weather events more frequent and more intense,” said Norman.

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