New Zealand actor Lucy lawless has joined a host of high-profile celebrities calling for the High Arctic to be declared a global sanctuary.

Lawless revealed the plan alongside high-flying billionaire Sir Richard Branson at a press conference at the UN Earth Summit in Rio this morning.

The move comes after Lawless and seven other Greenpeace activists were convicted over the occupation of an oil drilling ship in Taranaki February in protest of planned oil drilling operations in the Arctic.

Lawless joins Sir Paul McCartney, Penelope Cruz, Robert Redford, Jude Law and the world's biggest boy band One Direction in demanding that the uninhabited area around the North Pole be legally protected and made off-limits to polluters.


Greenpeace said in a statement one of the key steps of the plan was to gather a million signatures on a scroll and place them in an indestructible pod on the sea floor, 4000 metres below the North Pole.

The organisation said if Shell was successful in its oil drilling plans in the Alaskan Arctic this summer it would spark an oil rush and the push to carve up the region would accelerate.

Lawless said New Zealand was also under threat from the same thing driving the Arctic oil rush.

"As the easy-to-reach oil is running out, the oil industry is establishing its new, extreme frontiers all over the world, including in the deep waters off the coast of the Taranaki, the East Cape, Canterbury, and at the bottom of the South Island," she said.

"If the Government would recognise the fact that there is a global clean energy race underway, then it could position New Zealand to achieve lasting, sustainable prosperity. Sadly, it is still obsessed with deep sea drilling, and mining for fossil fuels."