Mining, Drilling, Arresting, Imprisoning – Simon Bridges

By   /   April 2, 2013  /   18 Comments

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If National ministers go ahead with this draconian law, I suspect our jails may soon be filling up with protesters. The ‘martyring’ of protesters is nothing new in this country.

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NZ is prepared for an oil spill

 

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On TVNZ’s Q+A last Sunday, Energy Minister and Dear Leader Mini-Me, Simon Bridges, announced a new law with heavy sanctions against protesters who “want to stop other people going about their lawful business and doing what they have a permit to do and they are legally entitled to do“,

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Govt plans hefty fines for offshore mining protests

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – Govt plans hefty fines for offshore mining protests

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In plain english, Bridges was referring to  activists and local people who tried to stop Petrobras and Anadarko from deep-sea prospecting of the East Coast of New Zealand.

To refresh the reader’s memory;

Anadarko is the same company that, it was revealed in November 2011, Dear Leader  John Key was meeting in secret talks,

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Acknowledgement: TV3 – Key keeps meeting with Anadarko boss quiet

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(Funny how Key habitually meets corporate businessmen in secret…)

Anadarko is the same company that was involved in the Deepwater Horizon disaster on 20 April  2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 men on the platform; injuring 17 others; and released about 4.9 million barrels of oil into the ocean from a 10,680 metre deep well.

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Judge Rules BP, Anadarko Liable in Gulf Spill

Acknowledgement: Wall Street Journal – Judge Rules BP, Anadarko Liable in Gulf Spill

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Petrobras – the target of sea-going protesters in March and April of  2011 (see: Protest flotilla taking on oil giant ) – intercepted and protested against  Petrobras’ prospecting-drilling ships at the Raukumara Basin, off the East Cape of the North Island. The water at the Basin is deeper than those of the Gulf of Mexico, where the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig  blew apart.

During the protest, on 23 April 2011, the skipper of the ‘San Pietro‘, Elvis Teddy, was arrested (see:  Charge laid after oil protest).

With Petrobras’ track record of oil spills elswhere in the world, it was hardly surprising that people on the East Coast were angry that their coastal waters were under threat,

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Brazilian oil spill draws attention to drilling in New Zealand

Acknowledgement: TV3 – Brazilian oil spill draws attention to drilling in New Zealand

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Six months later, the MV Rena would run aground the Astrolabe Reef, spewing 1,700 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and 200 tonnes of marine diesel into the east coast waters, and onto beaches (see:  Rena ‘worst maritime environmental disaster’)

No wonder many New Zealanders wanted no part of deep sea drilling of our coast. Well, most New Zealanders,

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John key - deep sea drilling - rena - oil spill

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Meanwhile, on 11 April 2011, Dear Leader Key had a rush of blood to his head and took on quasi-fascist overtones when he threatened to unleash our own military forces on protesters. As Fairfax Media reported,

Prime Minister John Key is not ruling out using the Navy or Air Force to ensure multi million dollar oil exploration work off the East Coast continues.

Key today hit out at groups protesting against exploration by oil giant Petrobas by saying the company should be able to carry out work it was legally entitled to do.

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – PM hits out at Petrobras exploration protesters

Not since the 1951 Waterfront Lockout has a New Zealand government used the military on it’s own people.  This is the sort of man that our Prime Minister is.

However, the Nats have become more cunning, and instead  are proposing to  amend the law, criminalising sea-going protests with heavy fines and terms of imprisonment. As Simon Bridges said on TVNZ’s Q+A (31 March 2013),

JESSICA MUTCH I want to start off by asking you your predecessor in a speech, Phil Heatley, said, ‘I’m determined to ensure the mining sector is not hampered by unsafe protest actions by a small but vocal minority.’ You’ve been working on this since taking over. What are protesters in for?

SIMON BRIDGES So, that’s right. So we are acting, and so two offences are going to be put into the Crown Minerals Bill. Look, the first of those is truly criminal offence. Effectively, what it says is that it will be stopping people out there at deep sea, in rough waters, dangerous conditions, doing dangerous acts, damaging and interfering with legitimate business interests with ships, for example, seismic ships, and what they’re doing out there.

JESSICA What fines are we talking about there?

SIMON Well, for that one, 12 months’ imprisonment, or $1000 (please note: the minister meant $100,000 not $1000) or $50,000 fine, depending on whether you’re a body corporate or an individual. Then a lesser, more infringement offence, really, strict liability offence for entering within a specified area, probably up to 500 metres within that ship, again because of the dangers associated with doing that.

Acknowledgement: TVNZ:  Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview

Jessica Mutch  challenged Bridges on this,

JESSICA Isn’t this just about putting commercial interests, though, ahead of the rights of New Zealanders? We saw this- the Government doing this with The Hobbit as well.

SIMON No, I don’t think so at all. Look, I think what you’re seeing is a desire to ensure that really reckless, dangerous acts out hundreds of miles from the shore don’t happen. I don’t think it’s on. I don’t think most New Zealanders would think it on. They’d agree with me, I think, that it should be treated as criminal behaviour.

And then a glimpse of truth came out,

JESSICA Did mining companies complain to the Government?

SIMON Oh, there have been complaints. Look, I’ve talked with a range of businesses.

JESSICA So isn’t this just basically a sot to mineral companies and mining companies?

SIMON No, I don’t think so. In fact, I think what’s also true is this is best practice. You look at Australia, you look at other countries, they already do this. We’re also, I think, here filling a gap in the sense that to the Territorial Sea – that’s 12 miles out – you already have these sorts of provisions. Even the Exclusive Economic Zone, as I say, a massive area – 4 million-odd square kilometres – there are some provisions for oil rigs and so on. But for these moving vessels, where it was very dangerous and we thought so, that’s where we’re acting.

JESSICA Was this prompted by the Elvis Teddy case?

SIMON Look, that’s certainly part of the genesis of this.

JESSICA Well, that’s interesting because Phil Heatley said, ‘Protest action played no part in the company’s decision to quit New Zealand.’ So what does it even matter?

At which point, Jessica Mutch laid it on for Bridges, who could only deny, deny, deny,

JESSICA Are you basically trying to send a message to mining companies to say, ‘Hey, look, don’t worry. The Government’s got this. We’ll take care of the protesters. Come on down and have a look around’?

SIMON No, because what’s quite clear, as I’ve already said, is that there are many ways that Kiwis can protest if that’s what they want to do – fill their boots with protest. There are many ways they can do that, but as I say, look, when you’re talking about this dangerous kind of activity where lives could be lost, and I’m not putting that too highly, I think it’s right that we make it criminal behaviour and seen as criminal.

JESSICA You’re clearly looking to help out mining companies…

For full transcript, read here: Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview

Bridges and Key can deny all they like, but the proposed law changes – like the ‘Hobbit Law’, Search and Surveillance Act, etc, are all designed to stifle dissent and increase corporate and State power.

Never mind Labour’s so-called  “Nanny State” that National complained about in 2007 and 2008 – this has the hallmarks of a nasty, petty authoritarian, government.

This is the sort of threatening behaviour we have previously seen from National Ministers. Instances such as Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce, who on 27 September 2011,  warned protesting university students to keep their “heads down”,

“My general advice to NZUSA (NZ Union of Students’ Associations) on the cost of living for students is to keep your heads down because actually most people probably think you’re doing OK.”

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Minister to students: ‘keep your heads down

If National ministers go ahead with this draconian law, I suspect our jails may soon be filling up with protesters. The ‘martyring’ of protesters is nothing new in this country.

Bridges may find a whole bunch of New Zealanders willing to stand up to this sort of bully-boy tactics.

I suggest he read up on history. Like the 1981 Springbok Tour.

Red Squad anyone?

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Previous related blogposts

Corporate Welfare under National

Anadarko: Key playing with fire

Petrobras withdraws – sanity prevails

On the smell of an oily rag

Additional reading

Meet Anadarko, The Oil Company Struggling To Get Off The Hook For The Gulf Spill

Judge Rules BP, Anadarko Liable in Gulf Spill

Brazilian oil explorer Petrobras faces refinery pollution charges

Nats plan greater gas and oil exploitation

TVNZ:  Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview

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18 Comments

  1. Pete George says:

    “If National ministers go ahead with this draconian law, I suspect our jails may soon be filling up with protesters. The ‘martyring’ of protesters is nothing new in this country.

    Bridges may find a whole bunch of New Zealanders willing to stand up to this sort of bully-boy tactics.”

    I doubt there are many protesters that stupid.

    Any with half a clue will find ways of protesting that don’t infringe on the rights of others to go about their lawful business.

    Frank, are you suggesting protesters should be free to do anything they like? Or does a line have to be drawn somehwre, between rights to protest and rights to do what you are legally allowed to do?

    For example, if an employer wanted to protest against the actions of a union would economic sabotage of the union be ok?

    • donna wright says:

      Come on Pete this is just another case of this government legislating to serve it’s own interests.Do you really think this is to do with the safety ? There are an awful lot of kiwis who don’t want deep sea mining here.The government is ignoring them.Just like all the people who don’t want our assets sold.They were all elected to serve and represent the people so why are they ignoring what the people want ? The very least they should be doing is holding a referendum …. thats democracy at work.Their are a lot more people willing to stand up and fight for what is right for the future of this country than you think.I am a 56yr old nana and I am one of them !

    • Donna says:

      “Frank, are you suggesting protesters should be free to do anything they like?” is an exaggeration. Protesting is a last resort. Pete, are you suggesting National should be free to do anything they like? I don’t recall a referendum in regards to oil drilling off our shores.. do you? Just because its legal, does not mean its “right” or that the majority of New Zealand are behind it.

    • Frank, are you suggesting protesters should be free to do anything they like? Or does a line have to be drawn somehwre, between rights to protest and rights to do what you are legally allowed to do?

      Pete, where were you in 1981?

      Which side of history were you on?

      Answer those questions for yourself, and you’ll get your answer.

  2. Matthew says:

    Great write-up Frank. I tell you what really sticks in my craw, is this constant use of ‘I think most New Zealanders would agree ……’ when said by people who are quite clearly completely out of touch with ‘most New Zealanders’ want or think.
    I think ‘most New Zealanders’ want a government that bases its decisions on what is best for New Zealanders, not overseas corporates. But you wont hear this lot saying that anytime soon.

  3. Smith says:

    Methinks you doth protest too much – there are plenty of ways to register dissent without crawling all over other peoples’ ships out and sea and throttling engineers going about their business (OSH would have a heart attack).

    Local/regional/national committees, hikois, press releases, ‘occupations’, petitions etc. etc. Look to the success of the Manapouri campaign, the dawn of conservation in NZ.

  4. Cath Arnold says:

    It all comes down to the government putting big business (ie coal and oil) before it’s own country. I don’t know of ANYONE who would be happy for ANY company to drill for oil around New Zealand. If the government are saying that they can they are willing to put our entire tourist industry, wildlife, waterways, and “100% pure” reputation down the toilet! There should NOT be ANY question of protest because anyone who cares about THIS country would be saying “no, sorry, there’s no way in hell we’d let you drill for oil off of our coastline”. It’s far too risky and all needs to be stopped NOW!

  5. Richard Christie says:

    For all the talk of oil extraction not once were the words ‘climate change’ mentioned by either interviewer or interviewee.

    Shame on both.

    • Richard Christie says:

      …or by this reviewer.

      • Ion A. Dowman says:

        Picking their targets. Climate change can be the topic of a separate posting (or interview), where it is more likely to get the attention it deserves.

  6. Groucho Marxist says:

    Queensland govt had trouble controlling the power workers union in the mid 80s.
    They passed a law making the gathering of three or more people illegal on the grounds of conspiracy. At the time the fine would have caused the loss of a unionist’s home.

    Natz are pushing the boundaries here with such high fines. Only politicians and their cronies have enough money to pay that sort of figure.

    More National/Act/United party bullying of the underdog.

  7. Tobes says:

    These laws are not aimed at Greenpeace. This is yet another example of Greenpeace’s publicity department claiming all the limelight by wailing ‘poor us’.

    This law is aimed at the possible use of Sea Shepherd style tactics which is something Greenpeace have said they would never do.

    Sea Shepherd regularly employ dangerous tactics which have resulted in a number of collisions and the sinking of one of their boats. The deployment of lines and chains designed to foul propellors and damage steering gear and sonar equipment. The bombardment of vessels with flour and acid bombs. Etc, etc.

    This is the type of dangerous activity these laws are designed to stop.

    Who will foot the bill for the rescue of a boat load of protestors 200 miles south of the Auckland Islands? Who will foot the bill for the cleanup of a Rena sized ecological disaster caused by the collision of a protest vessal and a survey ship 200 miles east of the Chatham Islands?

    The New Zealand taxpayer???

    Who will take responsibility for the deaths of any number of protesters?

    To say that this is a serious attack on peoples right to a peacefull protest is really stretching the truth!!!!!!!

    • *sighs*

      Ok, Tobes, let’s take it point by point, ‘cos obviously you’re not getting it…

      These laws are not aimed at Greenpeace. This is yet another example of Greenpeace’s publicity department claiming all the limelight by wailing ‘poor us’.

      I wrote this article – not Greenpeace.

      This has nothing to do with Greenpeace except as a straw-man argument you’ve raised.

      This law is aimed at the possible use of Sea Shepherd style tactics which is something Greenpeace have said they would never do.

      Again, I wrote this article – not Sea Shepherd.

      By the way, you do realise that ordinary citizens can also adopt non-violent direct action, and is not limited to Sea Shepherd or any other organisation.

      Indeed, many of the protestors against Petrobras were ordinary East Coast folk who are angry that their coastal environment is under threat.

      Your use of Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace appears to be some kind of “dog whistling”, as if you’re trying to use them as a “bogeyman”. That, to me, illustrates your lack of understand and sympathy for environmental issues and problems.

      Sea Shepherd regularly employ dangerous tactics which have resulted in a number of collisions and the sinking of one of their boats. The deployment of lines and chains designed to foul propellors and damage steering gear and sonar equipment. The bombardment of vessels with flour and acid bombs. Etc, etc.

      Your use of the term “acid bombs” is emotive garbage. According to Sea Shepherd’s statement,

      “The stink bombs were made from diluted butyric acid which is, in fact, less acidic than citric acid. Butyric acid is butter acid and has the smell of rancid butter. It does not eat through metal. It just smells bad.” – http://www.seashepherd.org/news-and-media/2008/11/03/how-we-destroyed-the-nisshin-maru-714

      If you’re going to make statements of fact, at least try to make them accurate.

      Who will foot the bill for the rescue of a boat load of protestors 200 miles south of the Auckland Islands? Who will foot the bill for the cleanup of a Rena sized ecological disaster caused by the collision of a protest vessal and a survey ship 200 miles east of the Chatham Islands?

      Ahhh, now we’re getting tio the nub of the issue. Tobes, let me turn the question asround; who will pay for a deep sea oil spill as happened in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010?

      That spill cost billions; crippled thousands of businesses; destroyed unknown numbers of wildlife; and killed eleven men.

      Who will pay for that, if it happens at the Raukumara Basin – areas of which are DEEPER than the Gulf of Mexico?

      Do you known that the clean-up costs of the MV Rena were not met 100% by the ships owners, and much of the rusting hulk, containers, and other material, is still on the Astrolabe Reef or sea floor?

      Does that not serve as a warning to us?

      Who will foot the bill for the cleanup of a Rena sized ecological disaster caused by the collision of a protest vessal and a survey ship 200 miles east of the Chatham Islands?

      Now you’re engaging in fantasy. I think a Survey Ship running over a small protest vessel is most unlikely to create the kind of fantasy scenario you’re positing.

      I suggest to you, Tobes, that your concerns are misplaced. You should be worrying about a deep sea oil spill, and not those who are opposed to unsafe oil drilling practices.

      Because it’s abundantly clear to me that you haven’t a clue what you’re on about.

  8. Occupy Savvy says:

    This is a well thought out article connecting many dots by a talented and intelligent author. Love it.

  9. Ion A. Dowman says:

    The Government’s stand has absolutely nothing to do with safety. At least not with protesters’ safety. The safety of Corporate interests (and their own) oh, yeah. Their safety is paramount. Even at the expense of others’ safety.

    It has been attributed to Ben Franklin, and many since: ‘Who would trade a freedom for a little security deserves neither the freedom nor the security.’

    What, then, should we think of those who would trade the freedom of others to buy security for themselves? I charge the National Government with this. And I charge the previous Labour adminstration for the same. Both deserve at the very least as many years in the pillory as they spent in office, for deliberately and with malice aforethought replacing my freedoms with safety for themselves. Damned tootin’ I take it personally.

    Here’s a question for Government. Are they as individuals prepared to wear the costs of their mal-administration? When the oil spill happens, when fracking fractures the aquifers of Canterbury as they have in Taranaki; when mining tailing contaminate soils and waters; any and all at great expense to the New Zealand fisc, will they be prepared to defend charges brought under Ruth Richardson’s sole worthwhile legacy to this country: the Fiscal Responsibility Act?

    Yeah. Right.

  10. Ion A. Dowman says:

    ‘Government using scare tactics’ Here’s what Thos Jefferson would have said about that. Where the Government fears the people, there you have liberty; where the people fears the government, there you have tyranny.’ Works as well in 2013 as it did in 1776.



Authorised by Martyn Bradbury, The Editor, TheDailyBlog, 5 Victoria St East/Queen St, CBD, Auckland, New Zealand.