Greenpeace Aotearoa executive director and former MP and Green Party leader Russel Norman and fellow protester Sara Howell will have to wait as long as two more months to hear if they have avoided conviction for trying to disrupt oil exploration off the North Island's east coast.

At the end of an hour-long sentencing hearing yesterday in Napier District Court, with more than 20 of their supporters outside with banners and placards, Judge Arthur Tompkins reserved his decision.

Norman, a 51-year-old who moved to New Zealand from Australia in 1997, and Howell, 26, from Ireland, were remanded for sentencing on September 24.

Cameron Stuart, of Napier, appeared for prosecutors the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and Ron Mansfield, of Auckland, appeared for the defendants.


The pair had originally denied a charge laid under a 2013 amendment to the Crown Minerals Act, after a protest in which they leapt into the water from two inflatables in the path of the 21,000-tonne, 126m Amazon Warrior about 50 nautical miles out to sea off the North Wairarapa coast on April 10 last year.

Co-offender Gavin Mulvay, who was not a Greenpeace employee or member, had accepted diversion, without conviction, in the early stages of prosecution, and Norman and Howell reversed their position and pleaded guilty three months ago, ending the need for a two week trial which was to have been held in April.

Stuart opposed an for discharge without conviction, highlighting the dangers involved as the Amazon Warrior, towing 8 kilometres of cables and equipment spanning over a kilometre wide was forced into an 8-hour, 360 degree manoeuvre to avoid a mishap and reposition itself.

It had cost "hundreds of thousands of dollars", said Stuart who also cited Greenpeace media campaigning, including a media release two days ahead of yesterday's sentencing hearing as reflecting a lack of genuine concern about the dangers he said were posed by their actions. Their eventual guilty pleas recognised they had no defence, Stuart said.

Mansfield said prosecution claims of risk to safety were an overstatement, the protest was "low-level civil disobedience" to bring about change, for the benefit of the community and future generations, and convictions would discourage freedom to protest.

The legislation had been introduced by the last National government to stop disruption, but the new government was not issuing such exploration licences, removing the likelihood of such protest while that situation remained, he said.

Stuart said conviction would not have undue impact on the two defendants, but Howell, from Ireland, had her immigration status at risk, with a visa extension already revoked but granted an extension.

Mansfield said the potential impacts and possible limitations on travel were reasons Mulvay accepted diversion to avoid conviction.

The offence, with the prosecution being the first under the amendment, carries maximum possible penalties of one year's imprisonment or a fine of $50,000.

Mansfield said the pair were prepared to donate $3000 each to Coastguard New Zealand as part of the outcome if there were no conviction.

Outside the court, Norman said the protest had brought about change, for the benefit of the human race and future generations in the fight against climate change and the burning of fossil fuels.

He said both he and Howell, part of protest voyage launched when the flotilla, including Greenpeace vessel Taitu, sailed from Napier, were proud to have been a part of bringing about change.

Norman highlighted such protest had ended the apartheid regime in South Africa, and led to women being granted the right to vote a century ago.

The Amazon Warrior, reported to be the largest oil exploration vessel in the world, is currently berthed at a port on the southern coast of Norway.