New Zealand Energy Minister proposes penalties for offshore mining protesters
With the potential for increased mining activity near its coasts, New Zealand’s Energy Minister Simon Bridges proposed large fines and strict penalties for anti-mining protesters who interfere with offshore mining operations.
Radio New Zealand reported that intentional damage would carry a maximum penalty of 12 months' imprisonment, or a fine of up to $50,000 for an individual or $100,000 for a group.
Seismic vessels would also be able to keep protesters up to 500 m (1,600 ft) away, with a fine of $10,000 to those who violate the order.
Brdiges said the proposed fines and penalties were inspired by protests of Petrobras in 2011. At the time, Greenpeace deployed swimmers in front of the Brazilian oil giant's survey ship in the waters off the North Island's East Cape.
Bridges said the proposed legislation is not about thwarting legitimate democratic protest - but stopping dangerous and reckless behavior.
"What we are doing here is stopping people 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."
While there is protection for oil rigs from unlawful damage in New Zealand's exclusive economic zone, there is none for vessels or other moveable structures, and the new law would fill that gap.
Greenpeace responded by saying the government is using scare tactics with its new proposal to fine anti-mining protesters who interfere with offshore mining operations.
It says the law is going to stop the same sort of people who would have protested against nuclear testing in the Pacific and nuclear warships entering New Zealand waters.
The Labour Party says the proposed fines are a massive over-reaction and the Government is kow-towing to foreign multi-national companies.
But Bridges says companies who have gone through a legitimate permit process deserve to carry out their work free of criminal interference.