The new Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior III began her first public visit to New Zealand last week with a ceremony at the resting place of her predecessor, the original Rainbow Warrior, sunk in Auckland Harbour by French agents in 1985.
The 58-metre purpose-built (in Poland) steel-hulled sailing ship arrived at Matauri Bay at dawn on Wednesday, anchoring over the wreck of the original Rainbow Warrior.
Ngati Kura and Ngati Rehia kuia and kaumatua were taken out to her for a blessing and a whakatau (formal welcome) in blazing sunshine around 11am.
Among the speakers was captain Joel Stewart, who thanked Ngati Kura for giving the first Rainbow Warrior such an inspiring resting place and for giving all Greenpeace ships a spiritual home. By visiting Matauri Bay the crew was accepting the baton from the first and second ships, and the duty of caring for Mother Earth, he said.
Ngati Kura had also blessed the second Rainbow Warrior, which continued to do good work as a hospital ship in Bangladesh.
Former Labour MP Dover Samuels, who was instrumental in laying the first Rainbow Warrior to rest in Northland, and former Prime Minister Mike Moore were on shore at Matauri Bay. Mr Samuels said the fact the wreck was still intact and in position more than 25 years after she was scuttled in 22 metres of water was a vindication of the decision to sink her at the Cavalli Islands.
It was also right that the Rainbow Warrior's teina (younger sibling) pay tribute to its tuakana (older sibling) on her first visit to New Zealand. The only sad thing about the ceremony was that many of the kuia and kaumatua who had supported the sinking at Matauri Bay, despite the controversy, were no longer alive to see the third Rainbow Warrior.
"They're not here with us today, but they are here in spirit," Mr Samuels said, adding that events such as this would consolidate New Zealand's nuclear-free stance in the face of moves to undermine it.
Those on board Rainbow Warrior III included members of the 1985 Rainbow Warrior crew Steve Sawyer and Bunny McDiarmid, now head of Greenpeace NZ, veteran activist Mike Smith, actor Lucy Lawless and artist Chris Booth, who built the Rainbow Warrior monument at Matauri Bay.