Greenpeace head Russel Norman charged following at-sea oil protest

Greenpeace head and former Green Party co-leader Russel Norman has today become the first person to be charged under the so-called "Anadarko Amendment".

Dr Norman is aboard the Greenpeace vessel Taitu off the Wairarapa coast where the crew is confronting a seismic survey ship. Source: Supplied

The organisation said in a statement this afternoon that Mr Norman has been charged under Section 101B(1)(c) of the Crown Minerals Act, which prohibits people from interfering with the operational area of a ship conducting activities related to oil prospecting.

Along with Mr Russel, Greenpeace volunteers Sara Howell and Gavin Mulvay were also charged.

The Greenpeace boat made the seven day journey to stop the oil drilling operation. Source: 1 NEWS

The organisation, aboard their ship the MV Taitu, have been conducting protest action against the Amazon Warrior in recent days and yesterday said they had dropped swimmers into the water in the Amazon Warrior's path, forcing it to change course.

"Three of us who got in the water yesterday in front of a climate-destroying oil ship have been charged," Mr Norman said in the Greenpeace statement.

"The science of climate change is unequivocal ... it tells us that if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change we cannot burn even known fossil fuel reserves, let alone new oil - which is exactly what the Amazon Warrior is looking for.

"The oil industry is the most powerful industry in the history of humanity and they have huge influence on governments."

The so-called Anadarko Amendment was passed in 2013 under Simon Bridges, who was Energy and Resources Minister at the time - it is now Judith Collins.

New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals - a government entity - confirmed that the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment had laid charges against the three, and said they will appear at Napier District Court on May 10.

NZPM said there has only been one previous breach of the amended section of the Act - when Greenpeace's SV Vega breached the non-interference zone around the drill ship Noble Bob Douglas off Taranaki in 2013.

Four crew members were issued formal warnings on that occasion.

The Crown Minerals Act states that any body corporate convicted of interfering with an oil exploration ship faces a fine of up to $100,000 while individuals face a fine of up to $50,000 or a year in prison.