Russel Norman's prosecution for frustrating the exploration efforts of the ironically named Amazon Warrior is intriguing.

He and other protesters entered the East Coast briny in front of the ship in April and were charged with interference.

Outside the Napier District Court on Thursday Norman and a co-defendant said they would be using the "greater good" defence.

Now, while that may sound like a line from hilarious Australian film The Castle, it raises interesting points.

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"We're not denying we were in the water out there, what we're saying is we had to do it in order to prevent runaway climate change," Norman said.

So, his is effectively a defence of others.

Presumably his counsel has to convince the court that climate change did, and will, result from the ship's activities.

We're in for a precedent setting result.

There's a ripper photo with this yarn: a cold-looking Norman bobbing in the rough chop wearing a lifejacket and hard hat; a human sacrifice in safety gear.

It's difficult to fathom what protection the hard hat would have provided in the path of a 21,000 tonne, 126m-length of iron. But then he's always been a likeable chap.

He may struggle to get public buy-in given his swim wasn't as sexy as jumping in front of a whaling ship, where on these shores the spectre of blood and blubber has always garnered unanimous condemnation.

But what may resonate with Kiwis is his claim that the government has passed a law which "criminalised protest". The precious right to peaceful assembly is of course a cornerstone of this country's heritage.

The trick, and question for the court, is to balance this freedom with an operator's freedom to carry out work without interference.

Speaking of precedent, apparently last month's 400 tractors and 1000 horticultural protesters on the region's roads didn't constitute interference.

But we daren't put the two side by side for fear of embarrassment. That is, while Norman was protesting the exploration of wealth - we were protesting a threat to wealth.

One wonders what he thinks of Hawke's Bay with a regional council-backed cavalcade of tractors chugging diesel in opposition to a water conservation order.

Given his shark-infested protest, he possibly feels a tad hard done by.