Iwi and environmental activists have planned a protest outside Tauranga District Court today where a ship's captain arrested for allegedly harassing an oil-drilling survey vessel off the East Cape is to appear for trial.
Elvis Teddy, the skipper of Te Whanau a Apanui iwi-owned vessel San Pietro, was arrested on April 23, 2011, for allegedly operating his ship in a manner that caused unnecessary risk to Petrobras' Orient Explorer by breaching the exclusion zone around it.
He is also charged with resisting arrest. His trial is set down for four days before a judge alone.
The Orient Explorer was conducting seismic testing in the Raukumara Basito to explore the ocean for oil sediments, part of Petrobras' search for oil and gas in New Zealand's exclusive economic zone - from 12 to 200 nautical miles offshore.
Te Whanau a Apanui has organised a rally outside this morning.
"We regard Elvis Teddy in high esteem for the stand he took last year on behalf of our tribe and people across Aotearoa opposing deep sea oil exploration and drilling," said tribal leager Rikirangi Gage.
"We will be greatly aggrieved if Elvis Teddy is punished in any way for defending his tribal waters, life in the ocean and his livelihood. The messenger would have been shot rather than the Government dealing with the real issues."
In a message sent to the captain of the Orient Explorer on April 3 last year, released to media today, Mr Gage said Te Whanau a Apanui was defending its tribal waters from "reckless" government policies.
"You are not welcome in our waters. Accordingly and as an expression of our mana in these waters, and our deep concern for the adverse effects of deep sea drilling, we will be positioning the Te Whanau a Apanui vessel directly in your path, approximately one and half nautical miles. I repeat, approximately. We will not be moving, we will be doing some fishing. That's what our waters are for. Not for pollution."
Greenpeace said it would have representatives at Teddy's trial.
"Greenpeace is here to support Elvis Teddy's stand to protect his iwi's waters and customary fishing rights from the threat of deep sea oil. Petrobras surveyed in up to 3100 metres of water off the Cape - more than twice the depth the Deepwater Horizon was operating in when it exploded and sank into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010," said Greenpeace campaigns director Carmen Gravatt.
"An area twice the size of the North Island was closed to fishing following that disaster. If the same happened here, the people of Te Whanau a Apanui, not to mention anyone who makes a living, directly or indirectly, off this country's clean green reputation, would be severely affected."