Rainbow Warrior mark III is coming

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The brand new successor to the Rainbow Warrior will make her first visit to New Zealand early next year, and her first stop will be in Northland.

The original Rainbow Warrior, a converted trawler, was bombed by French agents in Auckland in 1985 as she was about to lead a protest mission to Mururoa, killing crew member Fernando Pereira. The Greenpeace flagship was laid to rest in a watery grave 25 years ago next month at the Cavalli Islands, off Matauri Bay.

Her replacement was retired last year when the organisation's first purpose-built ship, a 58-metre steel-hulled sailing ship also called Rainbow Warrior, was launched. She was built in Poland and entirely paid for by donations.

Greenpeace New Zealand executive director Bunny McDiarmid, who was in Northland recently to help upgrade the track to the Rainbow Warrior monument at Matauri Bay, said the new ship was due in New Zealand early in the New Year. She would clear customs in Whangarei, but her first public visit would be to Matauri Bay, in memory of her predecessor.

Ms McDiarmid said the organisation was excited about its innovative, purpose-built ship.

"It will do the same things we've always done, but in a clean, environmentally sound, brand-spanking-new way," she said.

She would head to Matauri Bay first because it was a place of great significance in the organisation's history.

"The ship will pay its respects to Ngati Kura, who are the guardians of this land and of our old girl. It's also about passing the baton on from one Warrior to the next," she said.

The timing of the new ship's visit was significant because it came as New Zealand was opening up its seas to oil exploration, including off the Northland coast.

Greenpeace believed the country had little to gain from deep-sea oil drilling but risked a great deal, including its marine resources, way of life and clean, green reputation.

The visit would take place in early January but the date had yet to be finalised.

The ship would then dock in Auckland, Oban, Bluff, Dunedin and Wellington for free public tours. She would also visit East Coast iwi Te Whanau a Apanui, and help launch a national oil-free seas festival at Te Kaha.

- Northland Age

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