20 Jul 2018

Greenpeace's Russel Norman and Sara Howell still await sentencing

1:36 pm on 20 July 2018

Convicting Greenpeace protesters who obstructed the world's largest oil exploration ship during a climate change protest at sea will put off other people taking a stance on important issues, their lawyer says.

Greenpeace NZ executive director Russel Norman and volunteer Sara Howell outside Napier District Court 20 July 2018,

Greenpeace NZ executive director Russel Norman and volunteer Sara Howell outside Napier District Court. Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

Greenpeace NZ executive director Russel Norman and climate activist Sara Howell will have to wait a little longer before finding out whether they will be the first to be convicted under the controversial "Anadarko Amendment" to the Crown Minerals Act, after Judge Arthur Tompkins reserved his sentencing decision in Napier District Court this morning.

The pair pleaded guilty in April to obstructing the oil exploration ship Amazon Warrior during the protest in April 2017.

Dr Norman and Ms Howell's lawyer's Ron Mansfield argued for a discharge without conviction, saying a conviction would damage their reputations as well as employment and travel opportunities.

But more importantly he said it would result in fewer people standing up for what they believed was right.

"It does impact on the number and nature of other individuals who are prepared to participate in this type of civil disobedience."

"We often look back at other individuals in our community who are celebrated for affecting change in a similar way ... employment issues, in relation to the right for women to vote, legalising homosexuality - issues such as that," Mr Mansfield said.

Greenpeace tail an oil exploration ship.

Greenpeace's 15m launch Taitu, foreground, tailed the Amazon Warrior off the Wairarapa coast in April 2017. Photo: Source: Greenpeace.

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".

"This was an intentional, well prepared course of conduct that caused substantial disruption to a lawful, commercial enterprise in circumstances that presented real risk," he said.

Judge Tompkins reserved his decision until 24 September, though he hoped it would be made sooner.

Speaking outside court, Dr Norman said he was glad the judge was taking his time to deliberate on the sentence.

"This is one of the most important issues facing the human race, we're in a battle to save our kids from out-of-control climate change. This is literally a fight for our lives."

While he said he did not regret his actions, he would not do it again, and he viewed the Labour government's decision not to issue any new oil and gas permits as a victory.

However, he said he hoped the government would repeal the Anardarko Amendment.

Ms Howell, who is from Wales, said a conviction would result in her visa being revoked.

"Being given the opportunity to put my body in the way of something that was doing direct harm was something that felt right ... to prevent a really, really great harm," she said.