Tong to be witness in landmark trial

Kiribati’s former president Anote Tong is to be a key witness in a landmark New Zealand trial over action by environmentalists against the world’s biggest oil exploration ship.

Last year Greenpeace New Zealand Executive Director Russel Norman and a colleague swam in front of the Amazon Warrior some 60 kilometres off New Zealand’s east coast as a protest.

The pair’s action temporarily stopped the ship’s crew from seismic blasting in search of oil and gas on behalf of multinationals Statoil, Chevron, and OMV.

New Zealand’s former National government launched a case against the duo last April, invoking a new law restricting protests at sea.

They were charged by the oil division of the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment under the 2013 Amendment to the Crown Minerals Act.

It was the first time anyone has been charged under the controversial legislation introduced by the current opposition leader, Simon Bridges.

Mr Tong, a renown campaigner for raising global awareness of climate change impacts, has been confirmed as a key witness for Greenpeace in the trial.

The two-week trial is to start at the end of April.