14 Apr 2011

Oil survey protest flotilla heading back to shore

3:36 pm on 14 April 2011

A flotilla protesting against a Brazilian oil company testing for oil and gas off East Cape will be coming back to shore.

Petrobras is conducting a survey of 12,000 square kilometres of seabed determine if oil or gas are likely to be under the ocean floor in commercial quantities.

The company has a permit to conduct the search and a legal obligation to continue under the terms of an agreement with the New Zealand Government.

The flotilla, with Greenpeace and local Maori campaigners on board, has been protesting against the survey in Raukumara Basin.

A spokesperson from Greenpeace, Steve Abel, said on Thursday the three boats will head back to shore over the next two days to replenish supplies.

Mr Abel says the flotilla wants more boats to join the current fleet when it goes back out. He says Petrobras has indicated that the testing could take up to six weeks - and protest boats will be on the water during that time.

On Tuesday, police issued environmental protesters with notices to ensure their boats do not get too close to the survey ship Orient Explorer or its support vessel.

The rules state protest boats should stay 250 metres off the bow and stern of the survey ship, and 200 metres off its port and starboard sides.

Failure to comply could incur a fine of no more than $10,000 and up to 12 months in jail, police say.