Greenpeace today welcomed a High Court ruling that could clear the way for Television New Zealand (TVNZ) to screen never before seen film footage of the court appearances of the two French secret agents who bombed the Rainbow Warrior, killing a crew member.

TVNZ had applied to be allowed access to the footage shot by closed circuit television cameras of the appearances of Alain Mafart and Dominique Prieur, who pleaded guilty to the July 10, 1985 bombing and the manslaughter of Greenpeace photographer Fernando Pereira.

Greenpeace campaign manager Cindy Baxter this morning told NZPA the organisation was pleased with the High Court decision of Justice Simon France. "I think that it's about time that this was brought into the public.

"These agents have waived their rights to any privacy after publishing books in France," Ms Baxter said.

"I think New Zealanders would like to see how they defended themselves in court.

"As we all know, they got let off early, they went back to France, they've had quite nice lives."

After Mafart and Prieur pleaded guilty to manslaughter in November 1985, they were sentenced to 10 years' jail.

But both were transferred to a French military facility on Hao Atoll in July 1986 to complete their sentences. They were back in France within two years.

Ms Baxter hoped the bombers did not appeal the High Court decision and said Greenpeace was still hurting after the death of Fernando Pereira.

TVNZ lawyer William Akel said they would get access to the footage unless Mafart and Prieur appealed the High Court ruling within seven days.

Newstalk ZB quoted executive producer of TVNZ's Sunday programme Damien Comerford saying the ruling was a victory for freedom of speech and that the High Court said public interest outweighed the agents' right to privacy.

Mr Akel this morning said until the seven-day period was over, TVNZ could not definitely get access to the footage.

"There can be no dispute that this is a truly significant event in New Zealand history -- that's exactly what the judge said," Mr Akel told Radio New Zealand.

He said Justice Simon France had ruled privacy issues for Mafart and Prieur were overruled by the public interest in seeing the footage.

"Mafart and Prieur had each written books about what had taken place. It was not as though it was well dead and buried and they had not spoken and they had gone into a quiet existence somewhere in France."

Mr Akel said the footage was taken originally to enable media to see the trial from outside the courtroom and to allow the accused to sit in the dock without having to be surrounded by bullet proof glass.

TVNZ said on its website the footage was a "public record of an important event in New Zealand history".