NZ can’t halt whalers

A claim similar to that taken under Australian law to try and halt the slaughter of whales in the Southern Ocean cannot be taken here, New Zealand’s International Whaling Commissioner Sir Geoffrey Palmer says.

Australia’s Federal Court yesterday handed down a landmark judgment ordering Japanese government-backed company Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha out of the Australian Whale Sanctuary.

The sanctuary, in Australian Antarctic territory, is not recognised by Japan.

The decision, following a case brought by Australia’s Humane Society International, found Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha had committed numerous breaches of the Environmental Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) by slaughtering hundreds of minke, fin and humpback whales in the sanctuary since 2000.

National Party environment spokesman Nick Smith yesterday said the decision raised the prospect of the Japanese moving their whaling to waters New Zealand held some responsibility for and the Government should take similar legal action, The Dominion Post newspaper reported today.

But Sir Geoffrey today said it would be impossible to take the same case here as New Zealand had not claimed an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in Antarctic waters in the same way Australia had.

While New Zealand had claimed the Ross Sea Dependency as its territory it also adhered to the Antarctic Treaty which put all such claims “on ice”.

However Australia’s territorial claim to land and an EEZ around it was enshrined in its domestic law, enabling a case to be taken.

He said that domestic law was contested from an international legal point of view.

Japan has dismissed the court decision as an Australian “domestic matter”.

“The fundamental point to grasp from in New Zealand is that New Zealand does not claim any exclusive economic zone in Antarctica as a result of our territorial claim,” Sir Geoffrey told reporters today.

“We don’t claim it and we haven’t asserted it. The legal issues between Australia and New Zealand are quite different.”

Conservation Minister Steve Chadwick has said the Foreign Affairs Ministry has sought legal advice on the Australian decision.

Meanwhile, the Green Party is calling on the Government to send a frigate to observe the Japanese whalers and protesters.

Green Party conservation spokeswoman Metiria Turei said the latest events in the Southern Ocean were unprecedented and could see lives endangered.

Mrs Turei said the situation had become highly volatile.

“The New Zealand Government has sat on its hands too long and must now put the safety of both the activists and the whalers ahead of other concerns,” she said.

“A frigate is the only way of ensuring that neutral observers can provide evidence in any further court proceedings and that cool heads are present now personal safety has become a very serious concern.”

The Maritime Union of New Zealand General Secretary Trevor Hanson said sending a frigate would send a strong signal.

“We have allowed the slaughter of whales right up to the point of extinction. Now we have realised the terrible mistake and we must try to protect this species and all other marine species that have been devastated by overfishing.”

However the Government is unlikely to do so unless Australia – which is leading opposition to this year’s whaling – asks for help, with Duty minister Rick Barker saying New Zealand would consider all such requests.

“The incident took place on the southwest coast of Freemantle in Australian waters. We are in contact with our Australian counterparts and will consider any requests for assistance should it be required.”

Recently Conservation Minister Steve Chadwick said the Government believed diplomatic protest was the strongest position for New Zealand.

“Our position is keep at the table and keep Japan at the table,” she said.

Source: NZPA