Aotearoa New Zealand: Western Sahara activists, XR picket fertiliser plant

Western Sahara solidarity protesters and environmentalists block the entrance to Ballance Agro Nutrients in Aotearoa New Zealand on May 29. Photo supplied

Western Sahara Solidarity Aotearoa and Extinction Rebellion successfully blockaded the headquarters of Ballance Agri-Nutrients at its Mt Maunganui site on Aotearoa/New Zealand’s North Island on May 29.

About 40 protesters blocked the entrance, many chained together across the main gate and others suspended from tripods.

Organisers reported that several Ballance contractors attempting to enter the site rammed their vehicles into protesters, knocking people to the ground. One protester had his leg caught under the front bumper of a car, as a contractor tried to force his way through the gate.

“This just goes to show how much Ballance values human life” said activist Te Wehi Ratana.

Ballance Agri-Nutrients, along with Ravensdown have come under from human rights and environmental groups in NZ.

Shipments of phosphate -- illegally mined by Morocco on the occupied territory of Western Sahara -- are regularly targeted by protests.

Stuff.co.nz reported that in 2017 Western Sahara’s Polisario Front took out a court order in South Africa to claim a shipment of phosphate destined for Ballance. It successfully argued the cargo belonged to the people of the Western Sahara.

Greenpeace has accused the companies of polluting rivers. The people of Whareroa Marae, located near the Ballance plant, allege that their water is being poisoned by the company’s operations.

Protest organisers, say Ballance is also directly funding Morocco’s war on the people of Western Sahara. Organisers are calling on Ballance to talk with representatives of Western Sahara on the issue.

“Ballance obviously think it is just as OK to run people over as it is to poison the whānau at Whareroa and fund a military occupation,” said Ratana.