The head of Greenpeace says oil companies are as big an enemy today of the environmental group as the French government was when it sunk the Rainbow Warrior.
Russell Norman fears oil companies are capable of going just as far.
The Rainbow Warrior III pulled into Matauri Bay at dawn on Monday, paying homage to the original which lies beneath the calm waters.
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Her crew also paid their respects to the Greenpeace photographer who died when it was bombed by the French government 33 years ago.
"We're here to remember the original Rainbow Warrior - and of course Fernando Pereira, who was murdered by the French government on that day in 1985."
Two French spies were ordered to attack the vessel as part of French efforts to stop anti-nuclear protests in the South Pacific.
Mr Norman says the oil and gas exploration companies are today's enemies, and could go just as far.
"When you look at the history of the campaign against nuclear testing in the Pacific and the steps the French government was willing to go to stop Greenpeace and others winning that battle, it gives you a sense of what the oil companies are capable of as well," he says.
"Oil companies are going to fight us tooth and nail."
The Rainbow Warrior III is in New Zealand to champion the Government's ban on new offshore oil and gas exploration.
"We are here to celebrate the end of oil, to make oil history - but we are here to say to these big companies that we can still fight for protecting the oceans," says captain Fernando Roma.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called climate change this generation's nuclear-free moment, and Mr Norman agrees.
"It's the step into the future that the whole world needs to take, and New Zealand is proudly leading the way," he says.
The original Rainbow Warrior is now a world-class dive site and a symbol of New Zealand's history at the forefront of environmental causes.