The eight Greenpeace activists – including Lucy Lawless – arrested before and during an occupation of a Shell-chartered drillship in February were today remanded at large for sentencing on September 14 at the New Plymouth District Court in New Zealand, after pleading guilty to charges of unlawfully being on a ship.

At a press conference held immediately after their appearance, the activists delivered a statement in which they affirmed their belief in their actions, and said they hoped that people around the world would continue to stand with them against Arctic oil drilling. They also expressed their opposition to deep sea oil drilling, which could be happening off New Zealand’s coasts as early as this summer (2012).

Seven of the activists climbed the drilling tower of the Noble Discoverer on February 24, while it was berthed in Port Taranaki, being prepared for its journey to the Arctic. All were arrested after a 77-hour occupation of the tower. An eighth activist was arrested on the first day of the operation.

Shell is spearheading a push to exploit the Arctic for oil, as climate change causes the average summer sea ice to shrink rapidly. Shell’s aims are consistent with an industry-wide push into more and more extreme drilling environments, that also includes the deep waters off New Zealand’s coasts.

Shell is a part of a consortium that recently finished surveying the Great South Basin, off the South Island’s Otago and Southland coasts and also Stewart Island, while Anadarko, a shareholder in the Deepwater Horizon, has plans to start drilling in deep waters off the Canterbury coast as early as this summer. Petrobras may be drilling exploratory wells in the deep water off the East Cape by as soon as 2013.

"The authorities would be virtually powerless to contain a deep water oil spill, just as the 6000 ships that responded to the Deepwater Horizon spill failed to stop the oil washing up on the shores of the Gulf states," says Lucy Lawless, one of the activists who appeared today. 

"The Louisiana industries worst-affected by the Deepwater Horizon spill were tourism and fisheries, two industries that are key to New Zealand’s economy. The cost of a major spill in New Zealand to our coastlines, wildlife and economy, could be massive.

“The other activists and I hope that our actions will inspire others to put a stop to what Shell, Anadarko and Petrobras plan to do in New Zealand waters.

"Like those in the Arctic, it is now time for people here to defend our precious coastlines from high-risk extreme oil drilling.

“The Deepwater Horizon was an exploratory well, just like the ones that Anadarko plan to drill this summer. Once Anadarko starts work, we’ll be running the risk of a Gulf of Mexico-type disaster in our waters.

“If we allow the oil industry to do their bidding in these far flung reaches of the world, then we stand to see these places ruined by oil spills,” Lawless says. 

"New Zealand is about to lose its chance to compete in the global clean energy revolution, as Pure Advantage highlighted in its report on Monday. If we act now, we’ll be helping the world escape runaway climate change, and we’ll be able to enjoy true prosperity," she says.

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