Oil protest skipper defends charges
Mon, 23 Jul 2012 4:09p.m.
The skipper of a protesting fishing boat repeatedly ignored police warnings he was too close to an oil exploration ship off the East Coast and gave them the finger, a court has been told.
Elvis Teddy, the 44-year-old skipper of the Te Whanau a Apanui fishing boat San Pietro, is defending Maritime Transport Act charges of breaching an exclusion zone set up around the Brazilian-owned Petrobras ship Ocean Explorer when it surveyed the Raukumara basin last year.
His four-day hearing began in Tauranga District Court on Monday. He faces a maximum penalty of 12 months' jail or fine of $10,000.
Prosecutor David Pawson said the case was not about deep sea oil, customary fishing rights, or Te Whanau a Apanui, but about Teddy piloting his ship in front of another less manoeuvrable vessel.
The Ocean Explorer was towing a sonar array attached to a 16km cable. An exclusion zone prevented other shipping from approaching within 900m of its path and 6km from the stern or the sonar cable.
Mr Pawson said Teddy took his boat directly into the path of the Ocean Explorer, deployed buoys tied together with rope, and trailed tuna fishing lines over the stern of his boat.
Teddy said over the radio he was exercising customary fishing rights.
Mr Pawson said he then ignored repeated warnings from police that he was breaching the exclusion zone.
Police from the Special Tactics Group boarded the San Pietro and after a struggle where Mr Pawson says Teddy refused to relinquish the steering wheel, he was arrested.
The hearing continues.
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