Anti-mining protests spread throughout New Zealand

Environmental protests against mining, as well as oil and gas operations are fast spreading in New Zealand, with opposition parties saying companies lobbied for a last minute change to a bill introducing a harder line on anti-mining protests at sea.

According to Radio New Zealand, the amendment to the proposed legislation makes it an offence to interfere with offshore mining operations, and suggests penalties that go from fines of up to $100,000 for protesters to prison.

Shell New Zealand closed down a public meeting Monday morning about its plans to explore in the Great South Basin, offshore Otago and Southland, after demonstrators made the meeting impossible to continue, reports The National Business Review.

A day earlier, Hawke's Bay residents rallied outside an exploration site near Dannevirke, owned by Canadian TAG Oil.

Energy Minister Simon Bridges has said the Government wants to stop criminal damage – not lawful protest. But opponents, including former Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and New Zealander of the Year Anne Salmond, claim the proposal may breach the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

The contentious bill is expected to be back before Parliament next week.

(Image courtesy of Greenpeace.org)