Yesterday afternoon a support flotilla of 20 yachts, kayaks, tinnys and tira waka escorted a group of four yachts heading to Whangaparāoa Bay by Cape Runaway on the East Cape of the North Island to join te Whānau-a-Apanui in their campaign to defend the coast from deep sea oil exploration.
Representatives of the iwi spoke, sang and gave a powerful haka to farewell and bless the flotilla. Leaders from Ngāti Porou, Ngāi Tai, Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Kahu announced they all stand behind the iwi in solidarity opposing deep sea oil drilling.
“Te Whānau a Apanui are grateful and humbled with the support we have received from a diversity of groups”, says iwi spokesman Rawiri Waititi. “This is not about money, this is about mana, and handing over the signed banners that will be used by the flotilla is a symbol of combining the mana of the Iwi with the people and groups that are supporting us to stop deep sea drilling in our tribal waters.”
Vessels joining the protest flotilla are coming from as far afield as the Bay of Islands and Dunedin.
“There is an impressive history attached to these boats sailing today”, says Steve Abel, Greenpeace climate campaigner, “Vega (leading the flotilla) made the original trip to Moruroa in 1972 to protest French nuclear testing and help inspire the movement through which we became a nuclear free nation.”
“We are united in our resolve to defend our waters and coastlines”, he said. “This send off today was a categorical expression of opposition to deep sea oil drilling”.
Greenpeace’s petition to stop deep sea oil drilling and new coal mines has over 51,000 people sign. The swell of public opinion against deep sea oil drilling follows on from the opposition and subsequent dropping of plans to mine Schedule 4 conservation land.
”Of course the bigger picture is our contribution to climate change”, says Daniel Mares, skipper of the Vega. “Instead of pursuing oil extraction we should be forging ahead with renewable energy and be weaning ourselves off oil”.
“Oil spills are a huge risk for the marine environment”, said Clemes Oestreich, skipper of Infinity. “We eat fish from the sea, we love the life in the ocean - the last thing we want is to destroy it. In every way it’s not the way humanity should be going. We have every reason to demonstrate against this behaviour”.
Next weekend the flotilla will be welcomed by Te Whānau-a-Apanui at Whangaparāoa/Cape Runaway near East Cape where the groups intend to strategise further how to stop Petrobras’ exploration plans and the Government’s current strategy of selling off the rights to drill for oil in the waters around New Zealand.
The public can also help ‘stop deep sea oil’ by going to: www.stopdeepseaoil.org.nz