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No conviction for Russel Norman after protest off Wairarapa coast

News from Greenpeace
Greenpeace Executive Director Dr Russel Norman and climate activist Sara Howell have been discharged without conviction following action they took to stop the world’s largest oil and gas exploration ship searching for fossil fuels off the Wairarapa Coast.

The Napier District Court today delivered a ‘discharge without conviction ‘ decision for the pair, who were facing charges laid by the Ministry of Business, Innovation, & Employment (MBIE), after the April 2017 action to confront the Amazon Warrior.

“We’re thrilled with this verdict. We see this as a major win not just for us, but for the whole movement of people fighting against fossil fuels,” says Greenpeace Executive Director, Russel Norman

“We love this planet and our kids, and we’ll continue to fight to protect them from oil companies that want to destroy the climate in order to make profits.

“The science is clear – if we want our kids to have a safe climate, we can’t afford to burn most of the oil, gas, and coal we’ve already discovered. It makes no sense to look for more.”

Charges laid against Greenpeace for the action were dropped by MBIE several months ago.

The environmental organisation had crowdfunded a boat, Taitu, to confront the Amazon Warrior 60 nautical miles out to sea, and Norman and Howell swam in front of it, stopping it from searching for oil and gas for the day.

A year on, the Coalition Government made the historic decision to bring an end to new offshore oil and gas exploration permits on the basis that taking action on climate change is necessary and urgent.

Norman says he had no choice but to confront the Amazon Warrior as it searched for oil and gas in New Zealand’s seabed.

“As seas rise and extreme weather events become more frequent, we’re facing the reality that if we delay climate action any longer, the consequences for us and our kids will be irreversible,” he says.

High profile climate experts and leaders, including the former President of Kiribati, Anote Tong; one of the world’s leading climate scientists, James Hansen; 350.org founder, Bill McKibben; and UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change lead author, James Renwick of Victoria University provided supporting statements for Norman and Howell.

Norman says the discharge without conviction will set an important precedent.

“All around the world we’re seeing a growing groundswell of people, communities, and governments standing up to the fossil fuel industry and taking bold action in the race to curb catastrophic climate change. We need this resistance if we are going to win this fight.”

Fellow activist, Howell, says it’s been encouraging to see how effective peaceful protest can be.

“I needed to take action because all of the life on this planet – in its oceans, mountains, rivers, forests, and cities – is marvellous and brilliant. It is delicately balanced and too special to destroy,” she says.

“Peaceful civil disobedience makes change happen. From Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus, to the non-violent resistance to Māori land confiscation at Parihaka; history tells us that peaceful protest is not only necessary, but it works.

“I always thought it would be someone else – someone wiser, greater, more skilled, or a better speaker. It was empowering to finally do something physical about an issue I care about so deeply. It doesn’t need to someone else. When you do something for love, you can do anything.”

Greenpeace’s flagship, the Rainbow Warrior is currently in New Zealand touring the country to celebrate New Zealand’s ban against new oil and gas permits, which came on the back of a seven-year campaign against offshore oil. The organisation has has just unveiled the next part of the campaign – a plan called “Solarise New Zealand” – which would see half a million homes solarised over the next 10 years with money currently being used to subsidise the oil and gas industry.

Report from RNZ
Greenpeace’s executive director Russel Norman and activist Sara Howell have been discharged without conviction after they disrupted the Amazon Warrior during a protest at sea last year. The pair intercepted the world’s biggest oil survey ship off the coast of the Wairarapa in April 2017.

They applied for a discharge without conviction after admitting the charge in Napier District Court in July.

Charges laid against Greenpeace for the action were dropped by MBIE several months ago after Mr Norman and Ms Howell agreed to plead guilty to the charges.

Issuing his reserved decision Judge Auther Tompkins concluded the gravity of the offending was low and a conviction would affect Ms Howell’s visa and employment here in New Zealand and could affect the pair’s travel overseas.

“We’re thrilled with this verdict. We see this as a major win not just for us, but for the whole movement of people fighting against fossil fuels,” Mr Norman said.

Mr Norman said he had no choice but to confront the Amazon Warrior as it searched for oil and gas in New Zealand’s seabed.

“As seas rise and extreme weather events become more frequent, we’re facing the reality that if we delay climate action any longer, the consequences for us and our kids will be irreversible,” he said.

Fellow activist Ms Howell said it had been encouraging to see how effective peaceful protest could be.

“I needed to take action because all of the life on this planet – in its oceans, mountains, rivers, forests, and cities – is marvellous and brilliant. It is delicately balanced and too special to destroy,” she said

At the sentencing hearing in July, the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment’s lawyer Cameron Stuart argued for a substantial fine and a community sentence that would reflect the “gravity of their actions”.

MBIE had so far spent $18,158 on the prosecution though its legal costs had yet to be finalised, it said.