27 Feb 2012

Oil ship protesters charged with burglary

10:24 pm on 27 February 2012

Seven Greenpeace activists who occupied an oil exploration ship at the port of New Plymouth have been charged with burglary.

The activists, including actress Lucy Lawless, boarded the Noble Discoverer on Friday and climbed to the top of the vessel's 53-metre drilling tower.

The ship has been contracted by Shell Oil to drill three exploratory wells in the Chukchi Peninsula off the coast of Alaska and had been scheduled to leave at the weekend.

One person gave himself up to police at the weekend, while the others were arrested on the ship berthed at Port Taranaki on Monday morning.

New Plymouth police say a couple of officers scaled the drilling derrick on Monday and asked the protesters to come down. They previously said they would not remove the activists for safety reasons.

Greenpeace's climate campaigner for New Zealand, Steve Abel, says the protesters did not resist arrest.

"We assured the police ahead of time for purely safety reasons that there would be no resisting of arrest.

"The activists didn't lock themselves on at that point simply because a 53-metre tower is enormous and you wouldn't anyone put at any safety risk."

Mr Abel says they were expecting the lesser charge of unlawful trespass, but police have charged them with burglary not because they took anything, but due to the unusual way they entered the port.

"It's an unusual charge. It just seems not as appropriate as unlawfully being upon a boat."

Mr Abel says the protesters are expected to be bailed and appear in court on Thursday.

Earlier on Monday, Ms Lawless said she believed the group's message was getting through and that Shell Oil had received tens of thousands of messages of protest.

She had said that the group expected to hold out for another couple of days.