The new Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior has paid its first public visit to New Zealand with a ceremony at the watery grave of its predecessor bombed by French agents almost 30 years ago.
The 58m steel-hulled sailing ship arrived at Northland's Matauri Bay at dawn yesterday, where it anchored in the Cavalli Islands and over the wreck of the original Rainbow Warrior. The new ship is Greenpeace's first purpose-built vessel and was paid for by worldwide donations.
Kuia and kaumatua from Far North hapu Ngati Kura and Ngati Rehia were taken out to the ship for a blessing and a whakatau (formal welcome) in blazing sunshine about 11am.
Among the speakers was captain Joel Stewart, who thanked Ngati Kura for giving the first Rainbow Warrior an inspiring resting place - and for giving all Greenpeace ships a spiritual home.
By visiting Matauri Bay the crew was taking the baton from the first and second ships, and accepting the duty of caring for Mother Earth.
The second Rainbow Warrior, which was now a hospital ship in Bangladesh, had also been blessed by Ngati Kura, Mr Stewart said.
Former 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 yesterday.
The fact the wreck was still intact and in position more than 25 years later was a vindication of the decision to sink it at the Cavallis, Mr Samuels said.
It was right that the Rainbow Warrior's teina (younger sibling) pay tribute to its tuakana (older sibling), lying in 22m of pristine water, in its first visit to New Zealand.
Mr Samuels said the only sad thing about yesterday's ceremony was that many of the kuia and kaumatua who supported its sinking at Matauri Bay, despite the controversy, were no longer alive to see the third Rainbow Warrior.
Events like yesterday's visit would consolidate New Zealand's nuclear-free stance in the face of subtle moves to undermine it, he said.
Those on board 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.
The ship, built in Poland and Germany and registered in Amsterdam, took 40 days to sail from Sri Lanka. It cleared Customs at Whangarei before heading to Matauri Bay and is now sailing to Auckland for open days on January 12-13. It will then tour New Zealand until mid-February.