In Auckland we had thousands of people visit the new Rainbow Warrior and, as they waited to get on the ship, we talked to them about why the Rainbow Warrior is in New Zealand and what we hope to achieve while she’s here and beyond. It went something like this:
We feel there is an indivisible link with this ship the Rainbow Warrior and a particular moment in New Zealand history when we stood for an ideal that went on to define us in the eyes of the world and also to ourselves.
At that time we stood against French nuclear testing in the South Pacific and fought to make New Zealand a nuclear free state, tensions were high because we were standing up to old allies France and the USA. At the height of that, at Marsden Wharf in downtown Auckland only a few hundred meters from where we are now, the French secret service bombed the first Rainbow Warrior on 10 July 1985.
So when the new Rainbow Warrior comes to New Zealand for the first time we feel she is returning to her spiritual home. It is an emotional time for many of us in New Zealand because we think of her as our ship and we think of how much she was a part of our history and our sense of identity. Even though she has Amsterdam painted on her stern we still think of her as a New Zealand ship. The flotilla banners that welcomed the Warrior into Auckland a few days ago read Haere Mai – welcome home.
When this new Warrior first arrived she sailed into Matauri Bay to pay respects to the first Warrior which is laid to rest on the seafloor at the Cavalli Islands – a haven for seaweed and fish as is most fitting. There she is in the guardianship of Ngati Kura. And we pay respects to Fernando Pereira who lost his life on that fateful night.
When it was inquired in the early 2000s as to the origin of the clean green reputation in NZ by an economic institute in Wellington called BERL, it was found that it could be traced to the bombing of the Warrior in 1985 and to the passing of the Nuclear free legislation in 1987. In that time the idea was galvanised in the perceptions of the world that New Zealand was a clean green and principled nation that was free of nuclear pollution and intended to stay that way. And the world wanted a part of that.
Presently 70% of our export economy trades off that clean green reputation. So in a strange sense when we stood for a principle of being nuclear free we had perhaps the unintended consequence of creating a whole lot of conventional prosperity.
I believe the reason we stood for that nuclear free position is that we in New Zealand like to see ourselves as something of an unspoiled paradise (and the world also likes to see us as that). It might not be as true as it could be – our rivers need to be cleaned up and many things could be done better but the value we wanted to protect was NZ as a safe and idyllic place – a great place to raise your kids. We like to think that that childhood of running around on beaches at Christmas (even if the weather’s rubbish!) and swimming and catching fish and knowing that they are safe to eat – are something of a kiwi birthright. And when we said no to nuclear pollution we were saying yes to keeping the integrity of that priceless quality of life, those unspoiled oceans and coastlines that we want our kids to inherit and our grandkids to inherit.
So now when our leaders are telling us that to have prosperity, jobs and deal with the recession we need the ship-of-New Zealand to change course. We need now to open up our coastal waters to deep sea oil drilling. We need to vastly increase the amount of hydraulic fracturing on land for oil and gas. And we need to dig coal and lignite out of the ground and destroy spectacular ecologies like the Denniston Plateau in the South Island to burn and export that coal and turn it into diesel. A part of us winces at that proposition because we don’t see it as fitting with what we think of as New Zealand. And a wise part of us knows that the integrity of those pure waters is worth far more than any short-term oil royalty.
So when the government tells us that deep sea oil drilling is worth the risk, they are really saying that risking the catastrophe that we saw in the Gulf of Mexico two years ago (which saw a cruel tide of black oil washing on their shores and cost the US economy 40 billion dollars, devastated the tourism and fishing industries and ecology of the Gulf), they are making more than a bold claim. And actually they’re wrong.
New Zealand is completely ill equipped to deal with a spill even a fraction of that scale and cost. Its effects would be much worse on our country which is so much more reliant, with our extensive coastal area, on our oceans and shorelines for our livelihood, reputation and quality of life.
And we don’t have to go that way.
At a time when the world is crying out for solutions to the greatest problem that humanity has ever faced – climate change – we would be much better to not.
The solution to climate change is conceptually simple. We need to move our societies away from a dependency on dirty energy sources and into clean energy sources. This is completely doable and far from an intractable problem, but requires determined effort and political will. Human societies have changed energy sources before. We used to burn whale oil to light our homes and then we burned kerosene and now we burn electricity that can be generated using wind and water.
And New Zealand can be on the forefront of providing those ways and technologies to the global need for clean energy solutions.
Already 70% of New Zealand’s electricity grid is renewable. The world’s largest geothermal turbine is in the ground in Kauwerau and generating electricity right now. And people from the US, Germany and Chile are coming to us and saying – help us to do that, we want to capture geothermal energy and you in New Zealand are on the forefront of the know how of how to do that. That is an exportable know-how. In Petone, just out of Wellington, they’ve invented the world’s highest temperature super conducting wire and rotors and coils that could be used in to make wind turbines, high speed trains and innovative ship propulsion. Those are just two of dozens of examples of kiwi innovations, inventions and entrepreneurship that are creating jobs, and conventional wealth and prosperity and showing how NZ can be a world leader in clean energy solutions.
Research in the US and UK shows that for every dollar invested in clean energy you get two to four times more jobs than for every dollar invested in fossil fuels. So if you want to create jobs, then instead of spending millions of dollars inviting foreign oil companies to come here and do their bidding, you’d be much better to invest that money on our own homegrown innovators, developers, inventors and start-up companies, that are making us proud right here in NZ. That is a much more effective and sustainable path to prosperity and jobs and we don’t have to risk that thing we hold so dearly – our beautiful and bountiful coastal waters.
That’s the message we’re taking around New Zealand on the new Rainbow Warrior which is itself a shining example of a smarter way of doing things. We will highlight the places threatened by oil drilling and when we sail into Wellington launch a clean energy report that shows the steps we can take politically and economically to make New Zealand the cleanest greenest country on the planet . And in so doing be a provider of solutions to the world instead of just another country perpetuating the problem. And in so doing getting our ship back on course and putting us back there as a beacon of hope to the world, and of what is possible, just as we were in that moment when we said no to nuclear.
When we left Auckland we sailed to the East Cape to celebrate with Te Whanau a Apanui. They are the local iwi with whom Greenpeace made an alliance to resist deep sea oil drilling in their customary waters by the world’s third largest oil company Petrobras which has subsequently abandoned all plans to drill for oil in New Zealand waters.
This is just one example of what is possible when we stand together. It is possible to choose our destiny and say yes to New Zealand staying true to these clean green values and saying no to deep sea oil drilling and fossil fuel expansion. That is what Greenpeace and the Rainbow Warrior is all about.
We would like you to join us in taking this message to your communities.
Thank you very much for listening to me and thank you for making Greenpeace and the new Rainbow Warrior possible. We only exist thanks to those of you who are financial supporters of Greenpeace. And it was thanks to that support that we were able to build this ship.
There is a commemorative plaque onboard the new Warrior which thanks and acknowledges the generous contribution of New Zealanders with this quote:He ua mai Rangi hei Kahukura o aotūroa.