Greenpeace are taking a private investigator firm to court to protect the privacy of its staff, who they claim have been surveilled under oil company orders.
The environmental organisation said it has seen documents that oil companies, including Anadarko and Statoil, hired private investigators Thompson & Clark to follow its staff and volunteers.
Greenpeace said it spent months confirming the surveillance, including sending a boat on a trailer to Hawke’s Bay where it photographed and filmed the private investigators surveilling them.
It has launched legal action against Thompson & Clark, requesting an injunction to stop any ongoing surveillance, and has lodged a privacy claim.
It will be heard in Napier District Court on 28 August.
Greenpeace said it now believed the New Zealand government knew about the surveillance, however Prime Minister Bill English denied the claims.
Greenpeace New Zealand executive director Russel Norman said the petroleum division of the Ministry for Business, Employment and Innovation had received information from Thompson & Clark.
He told Morning Report it was totally unacceptable for a government agency to be working with a private investigators.
The investigations were “highly intrusive”, following activists home and compiling information about who they were in relationships with and lived with.
“All I know is what they’ve said, which is they’re getting information from Thompson & Clark.
“Exactly what information, I don’t know.”
He said the surveillance was “extremely threatening to a free and democratic society”.
MBIE confirms it received info from Thompson & Clark
In a statement, MBIE said it had received information from Thompson & Clark in relation to its prosecution for alleged breaches of the Crown Minerals Act’s non-interference provisions.
“Thompson & Clark were the security company on board the Amazon Warrior seismic survey vessel and have provided evidence of the alleged offending at sea, as part of the prosecution.
“Following standard legal process, this information has been disclosed to Greenpeace’s lawyers.
“The evidence supplied by Thompson & Clark for our prosecution includes photos, videos, etc of the alleged incident at sea.”
Greenpeace activists, including Mr Norman, were arrested in April after they jumped into the sea in front of and oil exploration ship working for Statoil and Chevron.
They were charged under an amendment to the Crown Minerals Act passed in 2013 which cracked down on anti-mining protests at sea.