Greenpeace calls for Govt inquiry into Christchurch spying to include MBIE

Environmental group Greenpeace is calling on the Government to expand its inquiry into Christchurch spying to include MBIE - the government agency it alleges spied on its activists.

Newshub reported last week that $180,000 of taxpayer money was used to spy on victims of the Christchurch earthquake.

Southern Response hired private investigators from Thompson and Clark to watch victims of the quake, saying they wanted to prevent a "repeat Ashburton WINZ incident," a reference to the double-fatal attack on WINZ staff.

Greenpeace says oil companies Anadarko and Statoil also used Thompson and Clark to spy on activists, claiming the information was then passed on to the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

Documents released to Greenpeace under the Official Information Act show MBIE was in frequent communication with Thompson and Clark.

"This is a taxpayer funded Government regulator that we expect to do its job professionally and impartially. Instead, what we've seen feels like MBIE has been acting as little more than an agent for oil companies and their contractors," Greenpeace spokesperson Russel Norman says.

Greenpeace says Thompson and Clark followed staff to their homes, photographed and monitored them "for years."

"The methods used by TCIL are a cancer to in our democracy as they primarily target citizens that engage in peaceful advocacy. The chilling effect of being under constant and intrusive surveillance for simply campaigning on important issues such as climate change, fundamentally corrodes what it means to live in a free and democratic society," Dr Norman said.

The State Services Commission is due to release information on who will lead the inquiry into Southern Response on Friday. The release is expected to include the inquiry's terms of reference.

Newshub contacted MBIE for comment, but the agency declined to comment.

MBIE has previously told Newshub information from Thompson and Clark was limited to evidence used to prosecute Greenpeace and for safety plan briefs.

"We receive information about risks to on or offshore industry activities. For example, in relation to potential interference with an offshore activity, these may include pictures or locations of boats or trailers on ramps," a MBIE spokesperson told Newshub in August 2017, when the issue was raised.

Dr Norman, two other activists and Greenpeace have been charged by MBIE with interfering with a seismic vessel after a law change made it an offence to interfere with or get closer than 500 metres to a ship involved in oil exploration.


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