Mandy Hager’s Column

Further degrading of human rights — thanks to our shifty government

By Mandy Hager

While we were all captivated by (and many were celebrating) the recent passing of the Same Sex Marriage Bill, another far more controversial and toxic legislative amendment was slipped through.

The ‘Anadarko Amendment’ in the Crown Minerals Bill Amendment, 2013, was drawn up solely for the protection of the huge multinational corporations who want to pillage our natural resources (and put our environment at risk) with deep sea mining and oil exploration.

It adds new offences within our exclusive economic zone, designed to prevent any sea-borne protest actions — with penalties of up to $50,000 for an individual and up to 12 months imprisonment, and up to $100,000 for a body corporate. It ‘enables the Navy or a police officer to nominate assistants who can stop and detain a ship entering an exclusion zone, remove a person from the exclusion zone and all these parties carry next to no criminal or civil liabilities for anything that happens as a result.’[1]

No public discussion

There has been no prior public discussion about these measures, and it was passed without the opportunity to debate it in select committee or through public consultation.

As a country which has long been proud of its protest actions on the high seas –protests against French nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll, against nuclear ship visits to our harbours, against whaling, and other bids to undertake potentially harmful mining and drilling off our coasts — it seems we are now no longer able to express our democratic right to protest, and this has significant constitutional, democratic and human rights implications.

Many of the country’s leading academics and thinkers signed a joint statement opposing these amendments but the government has pushed ahead despite the strong opposition.

It’s not even as if it’s traditional National Party policy to stymie such protests: During the term of Jim Bolger’s time as Prime Minister in 1995 he said, when considering sending the Navy boat ‘Tui’ in support of the flotilla that went up to the Pacific to protest French nuclear testing, ‘It is not going there to ram anyone. We are not declaring war. It will be there to provide support to individual New Zealanders who want to express their abhorrence at the thought of a return to nuclear testing in the Pacific by sailing their yachts and taking themselves and friends or whomever with them.’

Opening the floodgates to ocean floor mining

Many decent hardworking New Zealanders are horrified with this National government opening the floodgates to ocean floor mining of iron sands and phosphate, and to deep sea oil exploration – particularly as Anadarko, which was a silent partner in BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil rig disaster in 2010, has been granted an exploration permit covering 4,272 square kilometres, and a possible yield of up to 150 million barrels of oil in the Pegasus basin south of Wellington.

By allowing deep water oil drilling in one of the world’s roughest stretches of water we run the risk of catastrophic oil spills. We’ve seen the impact of a single boat on the Bay of Plenty, in the form of the Rena disaster – imagine what it could do to our environment if the Anadarko exploration sprung a leak.

It’s no wonder significant groups of New Zealanders are keen to get out and voice their protest against this –  on and off the water – and it is a scandal that the National government can get away with passing legislation that removes our democratic right to do so.

If this outrages you as well, then go to: http://www.greenpeace.org/new-zealand/en/take-action/Take-action-online/reject-the-Anadarko-Amendment/ and make your voice heard.