Greenpeace: you can’t sink a rainbow

c. 1985

Donated by Diana Pittock

Museum of Australian Democracy collection

This badge protests the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior, the flagship of the environmental organisation Greenpeace, in Auckland Harbour on 10 July 1985. The ship was sabotaged to prevent it from leading a flotilla of yachts to Mururoa Atoll in French Polynesia to protest against French nuclear testing in the region.

Shortly before midnight on 10 July 1985 two bombs planted on the Rainbow Warrior by French secret service agents exploded. The ship sank and a crew member, Portuguese photographer Fernando Pereira, was killed. Initially the French government denied all knowledge of the operation but, under

increasing pressure, in September 1985 confirmed its involvement. The incident led to deteriorating relations between France and New Zealand, including trade sanctions between the two nations.

The United Nations mediated a settlement and in July 1986 announced that New Zealand would receive an apology and financial compensation from France. France was also ordered not to interfere in New Zealand trade negotiations. The incident did much to promote a sense of New Zealand nationalism and raised the profile of Greenpeace.

The Rainbow Warrior, a converted fishery research trawler, was named after a North American Indian prophecy: ‘when the world is sick and dying, the people will rise up like Warriors of the Rainbow …’. The ship’s hull carried the colours of the rainbow and its bow was adorned with the symbol of a dove with an olive branch, signalling Greenpeace’s mission of non-violent protest.