Protestors and local iwi have joined forces to support a local fisherman who appeared in court today over a flotilla protest against oil exploration off the East Cape.
Tauranga fisherman Elvis Teddy appeared in the Tauranga District Court, charged with operating a vessel in an unsafe manner and resisting arrest.
Teddy was arrested in April after joining a protest which saw four boats block the path of a Brazilian oil giant Petrobras survey ship as it tried to enter the Raukumara Basin.
A police officer, whose name is suppressed, told the court he set limits to keep protest vessels at a safe distance from the exploration ship.
He said his captain was forced to make repeated calls via marine radio to the flotilla when they breached the limits.
Three of the boats followed warnings from police but a fourth, San Pietro, skippered by Teddy, remained.
The San Pietro allegedly deployed buoys and long-line fishing lines in the path of the survey ship, causing safety concerns for the ship's crew.
"This case is about Elvis Teddy driving his ship in front of another ship, it's not about usurping any right to protest or customary rights, or the Rena," said Prosecutor David Pawson.
Teddy and his supporters claim he was defending the North Island's East Coast against deep sea oil drilling.
The court heard an exchange between Teddy and the Petrobas vessel where he said he was not protesting but "defending tribal waters and our rights from reckless Government policies and the threat of deep sea drilling".
The Ocean Explorer was doing the first seismic study of the Raukumara Basin since the Government awarded Petrobras a $151 million five-year permit in 2010.
Outside court, Greenpeace and Te Whanau a Apanui protesters vowed to be with him every step of the way.
"As long as they persevere in what they choose to do, we will be there to fight it," said protester Adelaide Waititi.
Earlier a Greenpeace representative said the organisation is set to submit a petition with 140,000 signatures to Parliament calling for an end to the Government's fossil fuels agenda, and for a clean energy future instead.
"Greenpeace is here to support Elvis Teddy's stand to protect his iwi's waters and customary fishing rights from the threat of deep sea oil," it said.
The hearing is due to continue for four days.