Convicted protester says grandmothers 'won’t be silenced'

A Dunedin grandmother convicted of forging a letter in a bid to derail an international petroleum conference says she will not be silenced.

Rosemary Anne Penwarden, 64, was sentenced in the Dunedin District Court yesterday to 125 hours’ community work after a jury found her guilty of creating and using the false document.

Judge Michael Turner denied the woman’s application for a discharge without conviction.

Outside court, Penwarden said there were bigger issues at play.

"We grandmothers won’t be silenced.

"We have got to start standing up together and be loud and be brave and be bold ...

"For some people it might be breaking the law."

Judge Turner said the defendant was entitled to express her strong views about climate change but not when it contravened the law.

"Ms Penwarden must be deterred from behaving in an illegal way in the future ... She lacks insight into her behaviour and shows no remorse."

A couple of months after her Dunedin trial, Penwarden was arrested again after a group of protesters used a substance to glue themselves to a Wellington road.

She was charged with endangering transport and originally declined release in the Wellington District Court before being granted electronically monitored bail less than a fortnight later by the High Court.

Counsel Ben Smith said his client’s outstanding charges were irrelevant and she must be treated as innocent.

In September 2019, 12 days before the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of New Zealand (Pepanz) conference went ahead at Millennium Hotel in Queenstown, Penwarden used a friend’s laptop to draft a letter.

Using Pepanz letterhead and industry logos, it said the event was postponed because of the expected disruption from protesters.

She sent the document to delegates from the account "".

Conference organisers worked hurriedly to reassure attendees the event remained on schedule and it eventually proceeded as planned.

At trial, Penwarden accepted she had been behind the ruse but was adamant it was simply satire.

Climate protester Rosemary Anne Penwarden leaves the Dunedin District Court yesterday after being...
Climate protester Rosemary Anne Penwarden leaves the Dunedin District Court yesterday after being sentenced to 125 hours’ community work. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
She told the court she was astonished when police seized her laptop and phone in 2020 and charged her.

"You have a bit of fun doing that and it’s a form of protest."

Crown prosecutor Richard Smith said Penwarden "made a bad decision, but [was] not a bad person".

"There is no suggestion here that this is not a noble cause."

Despite the "altruistic purposes" of the demonstration, the court must deter people from acts of unlawful protest.

Counsel Ben Smith said Penwarden had simply been acting on her conscience after she had "done everything to try and move the needle on the issue" of climate change."

Judge Turner said the sentence needed to promote "a sense of responsibility for the harm caused".

He commended the time Penwarden had dedicated to her community over the years and sentenced her to 125 hours’ of community work.

"This time she will be undertaking work for the public of New Zealand."

In a statement, Penwarden said the prosecution, which she believed was pushed by industry executives, had "backfired".

"Rather than silencing me, the climate cause could not have had better publicity if we’d paid for it." , PIJF court reporter