Labour Day protests are traditionally about workers’ rights but it didn’t take long for the crowds downtown at lunchtime Monday to get the message about what’s really concerning Raglan.
As the 100 or so protesters filed silently past with placards reading “Stop deep sea oil drilling”, “Raglan the next casualty”, “Leave the sea alone” and “No sand mining, no drilling, 2 much 2 lose”, it wasn’t hard for al fresco diners, shoppers and the bikers having a beer on the Verandah Bar deck to suss out this was about threats to the environment rather than the pay packet or work hours.
The “spontaneous” protest – as the main organiser, Vera van der Voorden, described it – was hurriedly organised by text and email in the face of the latest of those threats, revelations that American oil and gas explorer Anadarko is about to sink a deep-sea well about 100 kilometres off the Raglan coast.
There had been plans for a roadside protest at Te Uku but because of people’s response to recent media stories about Anadarko coming here “we decided to bring the show to Raglan”, she explained to protesters after they assembled at the bottom of Bow Street.
She thanked those who turned out for “giving us your day off”, while Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (Kasm) chairperson Phil McCabe said it was “good to see Raglan step up again with only 24 hours’ notice”.
Vera urged people not to forget that plans to strip-mine the seabed were the “first attack to our environment”, and that it was time to take the first step now that Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR) had applied to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) for consent to mine iron-rich sands off the South Taranaki coast.
She urged concerned residents to make submissions on the application, to ensure they were on the electoral roll and able to vote, and to attend a November 5 town hall meeting at which Angeline Greensill hoped to get together a group of knowledgeable people “to tell us how best to respond as a community” to the various environmental threats.
Phil, the only other speaker, said Anadarko was a closer threat and with oil there was no opportunity to put in submissions. The only way was to “go out and stop them”, he said, calling on protesters to “stand by, stay tuned”.
He described the TTR application as a precedent-setting case. The whole west coast was up for seabed mining and he urged the Raglan community to help “nip it in the bud now” by trying to raise 20,000 submissions opposing granting of consent by the EPA.
Phil said it should be remembered the KASM campaign was rooted “in our love for the ocean and the environment, and our love for our children…”.
“This is our backyard, our patch and our watch,” he said.
The protest march was largely the “nice, quiet peaceful walk through town” which Vera called for – citing the TTR march some time back which used the power of silence – though protesters happily explained to anyone who asked, including the bikers hanging over the pub deck, what exactly the demo was about.