Farmers today called for piracy charges to be laid against Greenpeace protesters who boarded a Tauranga-bound ship bringing palm kernel residue to New Zealand for stock food.
"I fully respect the freedom of Greenpeace to protest legally but they have crossed the line by interfering with legal commerce and free navigation on the high seas," said Federated Farmers president Don Nicolson, who described the protest as "economic treason".
A dozen activists this morning lashed themselves to Hong Kong-registered ship East Ambition, which is at anchor 2km off the port of Tauranga.
They are preventing it unloading and claimed the shipment of palm kernel extract (PKE) from Indonesia is destined for Fonterra dairy farms.
Bearing banners reading "Fonterra Climate Crime", they are calling on Prime Minister John Key to halt imports of the product due to its impact on climate change. But John Lea, chief executive of Fonterra's rural merchandising company RD1, said the East Ambition was not carrying a shipment for Fonterra.
"Taking a Fonterra banner out and chaining themselves to this ship is nothing more than a dangerous publicity stunt that puts people's lives at risk and potentially damages New Zealand's reputation as a lawful country," he said.
"Police need to take this act of piracy, or sea-robbery, very seriously and prosecute those activists to the full extent of the law," Mr Nicholson said.
"Those activists need to be sent a message that is unequivocal and clear.
"They need to be made an example of."
Mr Nicolson alleged Greenpeace was anti-farming: "It's a despicable new tactic that has Greenpeace's loathing of farming written all over that ship."
Tauranga area police commander Inspector Mike Clement, in a statement, said police were working with port officials and relevant authorities to assess the situation and what actions may be taken.
Port of Tauranga corporate services manager Terry James told NZPA the port was having problems talking to the ship, and cameras, which normally helped with guiding ships into the port, could make out a Greenpeace activist tied to the ship's anchor chain, which stopped the ship from either raising or lowering the anchor, and protesters in the ship's cranes.