A New Zealander and five other Greenpeace activists have been acquitted of criminal damage charges after their protest at a coal-fired power station in southern England.

Emily Hall, 34, from Hawke’s Bay, and five men were accused in Maidstone Crown Court of causing nearly £30,000 of damage to the Kingsnorth power station near Hoo in Kent.

They argued in court that the protest was lawful because it aimed to prevent damaging emissions, and the jury cleared them in a majority verdict.

Hall, who moved to Britain in 1996, Huw Williams, 41, Ben Stewart, 34, Kevin Drake, 44, and Will Rose, 29, scaled the coal-burning power station’s chimney and painted the name “Gordon” on it.

The court was told they had planned to daub “Gordon, bin it” in a reference to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Another activist, Tim Hewke, 48, was accused of helping organise the 30-hour protest from the ground. The protest on the 200m chimney last October was against plans for new coal-fired units at the plant to supply electricity to 1.5 million homes.

Outside court, Hall said: “The jury heard from the most distinguished climate scientist in the world. How could they ignore his warnings and reject his leading scientific arguments?”