Warrior returns home
The visit of Rainbow Warrior 3 to the Cavalli Islands last Wednesday was a spiritual homecoming for Greenpeace.
It was also a significant event for Ngati Kura, guardians of the first Rainbow Warrior that rests on the seabed there.
The new ship is funded entirely by donations from Greenpeace supporters.
It is the third to carry the Rainbow Warrior name, and is designed to be one of the most environmentally friendly vessels ever built.
Its visit to Matauri Bay brought back memories for Greenpeace staff and supporters and acknowledged New Zealand's anti-nuclear stand.
Former Labour Party cabinet member Dover Samuels of Matauri was the driving force behind the move to see the damaged Rainbow Warrior brought to the Far North after the 1985 bombing by French agents in Auckland Harbour.
"The issue remains one of commitment to a nuclear-free Pacific and that stance is as strong as ever. It is an event like this that stamps our character. It is a big part of our history and now goes deeper than the anti-nuclear message," Mr Samuels says.
Greenpeace inflatables ferried guests from Putataua Bay, where former prime minister Mike Moore owns a holiday home. He attended the ship's arrival and is confident New Zealand's status as a nuclear-free nation will endure. "The anti-nuclear stance is at the core of who we are. It's in our DNA. I trust our Parliament and our people that this policy will not change. Not for money, not for anything."
The first Rainbow Warrior rests on the seabed near Motutapere Island off Matauri Bay and it was there that Rainbow Warrior 3 anchored for its blessing. Ngati Kura representatives acknowledged the pioneering days of the Rainbow Warrior.
Kaumatua Nau Epiha urged the crew to remember Ngati Kura and Matauri Bay on future journeys and campaigns.
A memorial at Matauri Bay was created by sculptor Chris Booth between 1988 and 1990, commissioned by Ngati Kura and New Zealand China Clays.
Among those present at the blessing were former Greenpeace director Steve Sawyer, Bunny McDiarmid, a deck hand on the original Rainbow Warrior at the time of the bombing, and current skipper Joel Stewart.
Mr Stewart captained the ship on its journey from Sri Lanka to New Zealand where it will tour for three weeks before continuing on to Australia and Asia.
Mr Stewart says New Zealand is the spiritual home of Greenpeace ships.
A plaque on the new ship reads: "It is pure light scattered through the teardrops of Rangi that forms the rainbow, a sacred cloak to protect the earth. With thanks to the people of Aotearoa New Zealand. Kia kaha."
Ms McDiarmid and other crew members say it was a touching occasion.
"I get emotional when I come over the brow of the hill to Matauri Bay and I start to cry," she says.
Mr Sawyer remembers July 10, 1985. He recalls the crew leaving the vessel safely docked in Auckland Harbour after a meeting and then going to Piha where a few hours later he received a call telling him about the bombing.
He has retired from Greenpeace but has some sharp words for New Zealand.
"New Zealand has been a leader in environmental issues but not at the moment. Hopefully the poor performance at Doha [last year's UN climate change conference] - the climate change denying and pulling out of Kyoto - is a temporary blip."
Greenpeace staffer Sofia Kuczera of Kerikeri is following in her parents' environmental activism - Nadine and Bernard Kuczera sailed with the flotilla to Mururoa Atoll to protest against French nuclear testing.
Natasha Armstrong of Auckland was just 18 when she sailed on the yacht Verangian, accompanying the Rainbow Warrior on its 1985 campaign. Since then she has had seven children.
She says her focus now is to teach them how to live well on the earth. Her father David Armstrong remains an activist.
Current Greenpeace issues are unsustainable fishing practices, offshore oil drilling and climate change.