28 Mar 2011

Protest flotilla sets sail for East Cape

6:05 am on 28 March 2011

A flotilla of boats has set off for from Auckland for the East Cape protesting against deep sea oil drilling.

The Brazilian oil company, Petrobras, is expected to start seismic surveying there soon after the Government last year sold the rights to explore for oil.

About 200 supporters crowded Princes Wharf in downtown Auckland on Sunday afternoon to send off the flotilla.

Several boats are taking part in the voyage, including ones from the environmental groups Greenpeace, the Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society of New Zealand, the Coromandel Watchdog anti-mining group and the East Cape iwi Te Whanau a Apanui.

Forest and Bird says it is concerned at the potential damage to marine wildlife if there's an oil spill.

It says New Zealand does not have a robust regulatory framework for deep sea oil exploration.

A spokesperson for Te Whanau a Apanui, Robert Ruha, says the Government is being shortsighted and they are calling on it to turn its decision around.

But Acting Energy and Resources Minister, Hekia Parata, says after the global recession and the Christchurch earthquakes the government has to explore every opportunity for strengthening the economy.

The flotilla plans to rendezvous off Cape Runaway on 2 April.