17/09/2009 by NZPA via stuff.co.nz

Both Prime Minister John Key and dairy giant Fonterra are turning a deaf ear to Greenpeace activists' demands following yesterday's dramatic protest off the Port of Tauranga.

Up to 14 Greenpeace protesters boarded the Hong Kong-registered freighter East Ambition, lashing themselves to cranes and the anchor, preventing the ship from docking.

They were protesting Fonterra's importation of palm kernel for use as stock feed because of its role in the destruction of rainforests, predominantly in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Police removed them once the ship docked last night and they were charged with illegally boarding a vessel. They will appear in the Tauranga District Court within the next week.

But one of the targets of the protest, Mr Key said he was not going to stop imports of palm kernel, because it was "used for about 1 per cent of feed in New Zealand".

"It's a waste product, in my opinion it's not leading to deforestation and on that basis I have no intention of intervening."

Fonterra said the vessel did not carry any of its feed, and that the kernel it imported for its dairy farms came from sustainable suppliers.

The company dismissed Greenpeace's protest as a dangerous publicity stunt that "potentially damages New Zealand's reputation as a lawful country", said John Lea, chief executive of Fonterra's rural merchandising company RD1.

Federated Farmers president Don Nicolson said the protesters should be prosecuted as pirates.

He respected their right to protest legally, "but they have crossed the line by interfering with legal commerce and free navigation on the high seas".

Greenpeace said the use of palm kernel for animal feed undermined New Zealand farmers' "clean, green" claims.

PKE is a by-product of the palm oil process.

Campaign director Chris Harris said only 4 percent of palm oil came from sustainable sites.

Statistics New Zealand showed that 1.1 million tonnes of palm kernels – almost a quarter of the world's supply – are sold to New Zealand a year.

New Zealand farmers' use of animal feed has increased because of drought, the higher cost of locally grown grains, and the increasing intensification of farms. Grass provides 95 percent of dairy cows' diet, and the other 5 percent is supplements such as kernels.

Tauranga police area commander Inspector Mike Clement said he was pleased the situation had been resolved without harm to any of the ship's crew, emergency personnel or protesters.

The Port of Tauranga, Fire Service, Coastguard, Customs and private contractors were also involved in the operation.



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