Skipper flying anti-drilling colours

By Mike Dinsdale -
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EAST COAST PROTEST: Oil Free Seas Whangarei representative James Bellamy, Putangitangi skipper Pete Shierny, and Mine Watch Northland spokesman Tim Howard were displaying the anti-deep sea drilling message at Whangarei Town Basin. PHOTO/JOHN STONE
EAST COAST PROTEST: Oil Free Seas Whangarei representative James Bellamy, Putangitangi skipper Pete Shierny, and Mine Watch Northland spokesman Tim Howard were displaying the anti-deep sea drilling message at Whangarei Town Basin. PHOTO/JOHN STONE

As seven boats left to protest against oil giant Anadarko test drilling for oil off the coast of Raglan, an anti-drilling protest boat was flying the flag opposing the exploration in Whangarei.

The Waiheke Island-based vessel Putangitangi tied up at Whangarei Town Basin on Thursday evening flying the anti-drilling flag in support of the protest flotilla.

Northland yacht Ratbag, a replica of an 1860s gaff-rigged fishing schooner, left Opua on Tuesday to join the seven-strong fleet heading to the Anadarko drill site 200km west of Raglan.

Putangitangi skipper Pete Shierny said his vessel was not equipped to travel along the rugged west coast so his job was to fly the protest flag on the east coast. After leaving Whangarei yesterday he would call into other small ports down the cost to fly the flag.

Concerns over the drilling included that Anadarko was using an untested drill ship and was drilling far deeper than previously attempted in Kiwi waters.

Protesters were particularly concerned about the lack of support if problems occurred, with specialist help about three weeks away.

"If something goes wrong with the drilling there it could be a major disaster like in the Gulf of Mexico and all we've got in New Zealand to deal with any clean up is three boats about 30ft long ... That's absolutely ridiculous," Mr Shierny said.

Anadarko owned 25 per cent of the Deepwater Horizon drilling site that exploded in April 2010, causing a major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

About 50 people turned up to welcome the Putangitangi at the Town Basin on Thursday and Mine Watch Northland spokesman Tim Howard said it was important to send a message that risky drilling was not welcome. "This presents huge risks to our ocean, the impact if anything goes wrong is absolutely enormous," Mr Howard said.

He said such drilling would only benefit big corporations with the vast majority of profits going overseas.

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