Students help share NZ history

By Peter de Graaf

Visitors to Matauri Bay will now be better informed of an important chapter of New Zealand history, thanks to the efforts of a group of Far North high school students.

Half an hour's drive north of the Bay of Islands, Matauri Bay is the resting place of the Rainbow Warrior, the Greenpeace flagship bombed by French agents in 1985, killing crewman Fernando Pereira.

The bay is also home to a striking sculpture by Kerikeri artist Chris Booth on a hilltop overlooking the sea, representing a black rainbow and incorporating a propeller from the bombed ship.

However, until recently there was nothing to tell visitors the meaning of the sculpture or the story of the Rainbow Warrior.

Kaeo 14-year-old Megan Bramley was looking for a suitable project for the BP Community Challenge when she was struck by the lack of information at such a significant place.

Together with four other Year 10 pupils at Kerikeri's Springbank School - Max Cadenhead, Kirsten Foster, Jack Thurston and Bailey Urlich-Short - she resolved to put that right.

They contacted Greenpeace and local iwi Ngati Kura for permission, researched the history, wrote the text, discussed their plans with Mr Booth, and persuaded businesses to help design and build a structure to house the information panels.

Megan said the project had involved a huge amount of organising and emailing.

At one stage, until Greenpeace got on board with funding and a designer, it had looked like it wouldn't get off the ground.

"It's the only act of terrorism on New Zealand soil so it's a significant thing in our history. It's important that people remember it, and that tourists know what the sculpture is about," she said.

Her group, calling itself the Lasting Legacies, considered putting the sign at the top of the hill, but decided to build it at the bottom for those who couldn't manage the steep track.

Megan's father Lester Bramley, who built the structure with Whangaroa builder Ron Martin, said the students had had a lot of help from businesses and the community.

It had been a valuable experience and taught them how to interact with iwi, how much work was involved even in a seemingly simple project, and how much persistence was needed to make it happen.

- Northern Advocate

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