Rainbow Warrior 3's visit to the Cavalli Islands on Wednesday was a spiritual homecoming for Greenpeace and 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. She is the third ship to carry the Rainbow Warrior name, and is said to be one of the most environmentally friendly modern ships ever built.
Her visit to Matauri Bay brought back memories for Greenpeace staff and supporters and an acknowledgement of New Zealand's anti-nuclear stand.
Former Labour Party cabinet member Dover Samuels of Matauri Bay was the driving force behind bringing the damaged Rainbow Warrior 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."
Greenpeace inflatables ferried guests from Putataua Bay, where former Labour prime minister Michael Moore owns a holiday home.
He was present and is confident that New Zealand's nuclear-free status is enduring.
"The anti-nuclear stance is in 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 at the bottom of the ocean near Motutapere Island off Matauri Bay and it was here that Rainbow Warrior anchored for her blessing. Ngati Kura representatives acknowledged the pioneering days of the Rainbow Warrior.
Nau Epiha urged the crew to remember Ngati Kura and Matauri Bay on their 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.
Joel Stewart captained the new ship from Colombo to New Zealand were it will tour for three weeks before continuing on to Australia and Asia.
Mr Stewart described New Zealand as the spiritual home of Greenpeace ships.
And bearing this out, 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."
- © Fairfax NZ News