'Just because it's illegal doesn't mean it's not right': Greenpeace defends oil protest

Greenpeace is defending its protest on an oil exploration ship, despite acknowledging it is breaking the law.

On Sunday, 30 people boarded a ship owned by the Austrian oil company OMV in an attempt to stop the vessel leaving the Port of Timaru.

Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson says desperate times call for desperate measures.

"The protesters have trespassed onto the site so what they are doing is illegal, but just because it's illegal doesn't mean it's not right," Larsson told the AM Show on Monday morning.

"We're in a climate-change emergency and oil and gas and coal are the reasons we're in a climate-change emergency. 

"We shouldn't be drilling for more of this stuff."

The Skandi Atlantic vessel was preparing to leave the Port of Timaru to travel north to Taranaki to help another OMV-commissioned ship begin to drill various oil wells off the coast.

"OMV's oil rig is almost 50 nautical miles off the Taranaki Coast. Its remote location means it's nearly impossible for ordinary New Zealanders to take peaceful action to confront it directly," Larsson said.

She says the protesters spent a "cold night" on the ship last night, and although they don't want to be "martyred" they are prepared to be arrested if that's what it comes to.

"We're hoping that that's not going to happen. We're hoping to keep this ship in port where it belongs and we're hoping to hear from OMV that they are going to surrender their oil and gas exploration permits."

The Austrian company - which has been named as one of 100 companies responsible for producing 70 percent of the world's climate emissions - was awarded its permits before the Government banned oil exploration last year. Larsson says it's "disappointing" companies are still allowed to proceed despite the law change.

"The Government has clearly signalled its intention to move away from these dirty fuels that are causing the climate crisis, but unfortunately they didn't rescind the permits that were released before the ban."

She says the Government hasn't gone far enough, and until policy keeps up with public demand, Greenpeace will continue to protest.

"There have been hundreds of thousands of people protesting on the streets for more climate action and we haven't seen enough policy leadership so you just have to go in and stop the oil exploration yourself using whatever peaceful means you have available, and that's what these protesters have done today."