Hundreds of people have met a flotilla of yachts protesting against deep sea oil drilling in the Raukumara Basin, off East Cape.
The Brazilian oil company, Petrobras, is expected to start seismic surveying in the Raukumara basin soon, after the Government last year sold it the rights to explore for oil.
The five boats were welcomed by local iwi, te Whanau a Apanui, at a hui in Whangaparoa Bay in the Bay of Plenty.
The lead boats left Auckland last Sunday and have been joined by other boats from Bay of Islands and Whitianga.
Iwi spokesman Dayle Takitimu says the response has been over-whelming, and those that have come on board to support them legitimise the fact that this is a national environmental issue.
Mr Takitimu says the issue of drilling is a wave gathering strength that will crash on the shores of Wellington.
One of the yacht skippers, Daniel Mares, says the message to the Government is clear - the people of New Zealand do not want, or support deep sea drilling.
The Petroleum Exploration & Production Association says the survey will adhere to strict protocols outlined by the Department of Conservation.