A handful of protestors have blocked the entrance to a busy fertiliser company in Mount Maunganui, in protest of New Zealand’s use of phosphate.
They’re holding banners that say “Ban Blood Phosphate” and “Dear Jacinda, remember us”, referring to the prime minister’s visit to Western Sahara more than a decade ago, where phosphate is mined.
Only a few companies still import phosphate from the disputed region, including two New Zealand companies, Ballance and Ravensdown.
Ballance says the protest will have little impact on business this morning, and it acknowledges the public’s right to protest.
A spokesperson from Ballance says the company is "conscious of the different perspectives around Western Sahara, and have taken our lead from the United Nations".
"Our view all along has been that the UN is the correct place to address the underlying issues around self-determination and sovereignty for Western Sahara, which are very complex and long-running. There is a lot more to play out on this geo-political dispute."
"In addition to product quality, we have seen first-hand the economic development, community support, environmental and healthcare initiatives," the spokesperson said.
Ballance says Morocco holds approximately 70 per cent of the economically available phosphate reserves in the world, 98 per cent of this is in northern Morocco where there is no dispute and approximately 2 per cent of reserves are in the Western Sahara.
Protestor Tiaho Nga Morehu said they were raising awareness of several issues including Moroccan control of the disputed Western Sahara region.
Rock phosphate had been illegally mined there over 45 years since Spain’s exit, Nga Morehu said.
The greenhouses gas emissions from the nitrous oxide in Ballance’s synthetic fertilisers were also a huge contributor to global warming, she said.
“The list just goes on and on actually,” she said.
Nga Morehu called on Jacinda Ardern to take a stand on the issues.
“The New Zealand Government and Jacinda Ardern need to be really addressing this issue of global warming in the agricultural industry,” she said.
“I mean Jacinda was in the refugee camps in Algeria in 2008, the people are really aware of the promises she made at that time, she mentioned Western Sahara in her maiden speech at Parliament and so forth, we’re expecting her to stand up and follow through on her promises.’
“She’s apparently the most compassionate leader in the world, let’s see it.”
Activists conducted protests at other Ballance and Ravensdown facilities across New Zealand today.
Nine people were given trespass notices at Ravensdown Masterton this morning after locking on to gates at the plant and shutting down operations. The Ballance depot at Taieri, near Dunedin, was also shut down by activists.
A protest letter was delivered to Ravensdown’s main office in Christchurch, where protestors also blockaded the main entrance.