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Protesters blocking trucks from entering a Dunedin fertiliser depot yesterday morning say the chief executive has "blood on their hands".
About 15 people from Extinction Rebellion Otepoti and Environmental Justice Otepoti gathered at the entry of Ballance Agri-Nutrients about 9am, as a part of a nationwide protest to stop Ballance Agri-Nutrients and Ravensdown buying phosphate from the disputed Western Sahara.
Ballance chief executive Mark Wynne said it complied with the United Nations (UN) framework and with its own legal and ethical criteria.
The protesters blocked the entrance to the premises, in Gladfield Rd.
Dunedin protest spokesman Jack Brazil said the business was "funding war".
Independence movement Polisario wants Western Sahara to have independence from Morocco, which has held the region since Spain quit in 1975.
Western Sahara has phosphate deposits, fishing waters, and the only Moroccan land route to the rest of Africa except through Algeria, whose borders with Morocco have been closed for decades.
"We are preventing the stolen blood phosphate from being picked up and being distributed along the whenua, as an act of solidarity," Mr Brazil said.
Ravensdown and Ballance were two of the last independent companies in the world that still bought phosphate from Western Sahara, Mr Brazil said.
"They are funding war now ... There are people’s lives on the line."
He said that meant Mr Wynne and Ravensdown chief executive Greg Campbell had blood on their hands.
Mr Wynne said the company was conscious of the different perspectives about Western Sahara, and had taken a lead from the United Nations.
"The United Nations has a framework for managing trade in areas classified as non-self-governing (which Western Sahara is)."
Its management team and directors visited regularly to evaluate compliance with both the UN framework and its own legal and ethical criteria, he said.
The phosphate rock it sourced from Western Sahara made up about 70% of its rock supply and was used to manufacture superphosphate.
Superphosphate fertiliser was required by New Zealand farmers to grow produce, Mr Wynne said.
Ballance respected free speech and the right of everyone to protest, he said.
"We always make sure protesters are safe and we encourage open and respectful dialogue."
A police spokeswoman said they were called to the protest at 9am, and police advised protesters they could not block the entrance.
"There have been no issues."
— Additional reporting Reuters