Members of 1995 Moruroa anti-nuclear flotilla 'incensed' that Steinlager 'appropriated' protest for new ad campaign

A new Steinlager ad campaign based on the iconic 1995 Moruroa anti-nuclear Peace Flotilla has been accused of cultural appropriation and incensed protesters that camped out by the atoll for months.

The campaign, launched earlier this month ahead of the America's Cup, commemorates the 25-year anniversary of the international peace fleet who bravely opposed French atomic testing in the Pacific.

A high-end TV commercial - directed by Once Were Warriors filmmaker Lee Tamahori and sountracked by a cover Fleetwood Mac's 'Go Your Own Way' - tells the story of the 97 Kiwis who risked their lives to travel 6000km to the Pacific atoll and call on France to sign a nuclear testing ban.

But members of the peace Moruroa flotilla are bristling that Lion, the owner of the Steinlager brand, has appropriated the efforts of the peace fleet movement to sell more beer.

Thomas Everth, who skippered a boat that took part in the 1995 protest, and Anna Horne, the first person to smuggle out photos of the event and share them with the world, are among those angered by the campaign.

Everth told Newshub the tale of the protest belongs to the Pacific people, and is not Lion's to tell.

"Steinlager had nothing to do with it - it's not their story," he said.

"The peace fleet movement is a story of the people of the Pacific, particularly the people who were mostly affected by it: locals whose land has been devastated."

He says after meeting Pacific Islanders who'd had their lives turned upside-down by radiation caused by nuclear testing in the 1970s, and seeing the anger and hurt of Tahitians when the French announced further testing two decades later, he's incensed that Lion has inserted itself into the narrative.

"The battle against the legacy of this [testing] is an ongoing battle," he explained. "The people there are still occupied, they're still fighting for recognition for all the damages that happened to them, their people and their land. It's a Pacific-wide struggle.

"When this ad aired I felt that it abuses the struggle against atomic testing and the occupation of that land, in which I took part, for selling alcohol."

Everth says to have this struggle used by a company to sell beer is "just horrendous" - particularly given the harms caused by alcohol consumption in New Zealand.

Alcohol use is associated with myriad negative health and social effects in New Zealand. It's linked to a third of all arrests, half of all serious violent crimes, and causes between 600 and 1000 deaths each year.

The Steinlager ad has drawn criticism from protesters.
The Steinlager ad has drawn criticism from protesters. Photo credit: Lion NZ / DDB

Alcohol harm advocacy group Action Point estimates alcohol's social costs - in the form of lost productivity, unemployment, justice, health, ACC and welfare - come to an astronomical $7.5 billion per annum.

"Anybody in New Zealand would know people who have had their lives damaged by alcohol. That's another sort of colonial impact," Everth said.

"Alcohol was introduced here by means of colonialism, just as the atomic testing was a deep colonial insult against the region. So now we have a colonial enterprise selling alcohol - a drug that's damaging to our people. It's just not on."

'Wrong and disturbing': Steinlager facing backlash

Everth and Horne are not alone in their contempt for the campaign.

Matthew Tukaki, the executive director of the New Zealand Maori Council, described the advert as "historical and cultural appropriation" in an interview with Newshub earlier this week.

Social justice group Peace Movement Aotearoa also weighed in, describing the ad as "wrong and disturbing" and calling Lion out for giving the impression that just 97 Kiwis were involved and ignoring the contributions of local Pacific Islanders.

Members of 1995 Moruroa anti-nuclear flotilla 'incensed' that Steinlager 'appropriated' protest for new ad campaign

The group has since made a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for two alleged breaches of the code, both of which pertain to misleading, deceiving or confusing consumers.

The ASA told Newshub it would be reviewing two complaints about the advert on Thursday, and if there is a case to answer, the advertiser, agency and media platforms would all be asked to respond to the complaints.

"The Complaints Board will then determine if the code has been breached. If the complaints are upheld, the advertisement would need to be removed or changes made to ensure code compliance," CEO Hilary Souter said.

The complainants join a chorus of social media users who have called out Lion for the campaign in recent days - most of which take issue with Lion's perceived appropriation of the story, use of the story to promote alcohol consumption, and historical inaccuracies.

'It's intended to capture the spirit': Steinlager responds

Lion NZ's marketing director Rachel Ellerm says Steinlager's latest campaign is not an attempt to claim any ownership of the Moruroa protest, and is instead just about "championing New Zealand's finest".

She said the brand had consulted closely with Dan Salmon and Marty Taylor, two people involved in the protest, and had created a shot-for-shot recreation of Salmon's original 1995 footage of the trip to the atoll.

Ellerm added that the campaign is the third time the brand has shown its support for the anti-nuclear movement, following its 2008 commercial with Harvey Keitel and ad with Willem Dafoe in 2010.

"Steinlager has always supported New Zealand's position on the international stage, and it hasn't all just been about sport. In the past we have celebrated New Zealand women getting the vote and our heroes on ANZAC Day," Ellerm told Newshub.

"In this story-telling, Steinlager is not attempting to claim any ownership or credit but to celebrate and share stories that Kiwis can be proud of. It is 25 years this year since the flotilla went to Mururoa Atoll and we felt that the story was worth telling on the anniversary...

"While in a short commercial we cannot tell the entire story of protest in the Pacific, it is intended to capture the spirit of the contribution some New Zealanders made to the cessation of nuclear testing.

"The story has received an overwhelmingly positive response, with people stating it makes them feel proud to be a Kiwi."