Rainbow Warrior bombing 30th anniversary

  • 10/07/2015
The Rainbow Warrior after being bombed by French secret service agents (AAP/Greenpeace)
The Rainbow Warrior after being bombed by French secret service agents (AAP/Greenpeace)

It's an emotional day for Greenpeace, 30 years after its flagship the Rainbow Warrior was bombed by French secret service agents in Waitemata Harbour, killing one crew member.

The ship's crew were preparing to set sail to Moruroa Atoll to protest French nuclear testing on July 10, 1985, when disaster struck.

Photographer Fernando Pereira was on board the ship when the agents planted two bombs on its hull and sunk it.

He had gone below deck to retrieve his camera gear and drowned.

The French government initially denied responsibility but later admitted organising the attack.

Only two agents ever stood trial – Dominique Prieur and Alain Mafart pleaded guilty to manslaughter and wilful damage, but a deal saw them transferred to a French military base and they were released in less than two years.

In 1991, Prime Minister Jim Bolger's government decided not to seek extradition of another agent involved, Gerald Andreas, angering Greenpeace.

The Rainbow Warrior was re-floated but deemed irreparable and is now a living reef at Matauri Bay.

Since then, a second and third Rainbow Warrior have entered service as Greenpeace's flagship.

Coincidentally today, four Greenpeace activists appeared in court in Wellington on trespass charges after climbing to the roof of Parliament House on June 25 to protest climate change.

Climate campaigner Simon Boxer says the coincidental timing of the court appearance and the 30th anniversary is fitting. 

"In 1985, the Rainbow Warrior crew were preparing to leave their families, their jobs and their homes, to get onto a ship, sail across the Pacific and into a nuclear testing zone in Moruroa, with the sole aim of stopping a nuclear explosion there," he says.

"Today, nuclear tests in the Pacific have been halted, thanks to all the people who kept standing up in the thousand different ways it takes to change the course of history."

The four activists, Johno Smith, Jeff Harrison, Abi Smith and Verena Maeder, who climbed Parliament were continuing that legacy, he says.

"They’re willing to take on legal risks in order to stand up for the most urgent issue that the planet has ever faced – climate change – at a time when our government is letting us all down terribly."

The bombing will be commemorated with a photo exhibition, celebrating New Zealand's history of activism and protest, at The Cloud on Auckland’s Waterfront starting today.

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