By Kendall Hutt in Auckland
In light of news of President Donald Trump’s executive order today — undoing integral climate change policies implemented under former President Barack Obama — Greenpeace New Zealand has brought forward the timetable for its new boat.
Greenpeace New Zealand’s executive director, Dr Russel Norman, says the boat, recently named Taitu, will aim to be out on the water next week.
“The naming ceremony is on Saturday, so we’re hoping to head off sometime after that. It’s all weather dependent.”
Norman would not give an exact date when pressed, however, in order to preserve the element of surprise.
“Of course, we’re not going to reveal all of our tactics.”
Norman says Taitu, formerly the MV Friendship, will be used to confront the Amazon Warrior, and therefore big oil, led by the “CEO of the global oil industry” – Trump.
Norman explains this is because we are “in a war for the survival of humans and civilisation” in the face of a global climate crisis, a fight Greenpeace “takes extremely seriously”.
“It’s so we, our kids, the people of the Pacific, have a future.”
The world’s largest seismic surveying vessel, the Amazon Warrior is currently in New Zealand searching for oil.
Greenpeace campaigner Steve Abel echoes Norman’s statement, saying Taitu’s “first mission” is to confront the 125-metre ship, here on behalf of international oil giants Statoil and Chevron.
“The main thing we’re focused on right now is the immediate oil campaign.”
The Amazon Warrior is currently surveying the Wairarapa to Wellington Basin, and does so by blasting the sea floor every 8 seconds with compressed air guns.
At 200 decibels per blast, Greenpeace has raised concerns about the effects on whale and dolphin populations in the area.
Abel says it is therefore important to “get out there”.
“It’s really important for us to send that message that that exploration is not welcome here and those guys have been out there for weeks and months now seismic blasting the ocean, which both torments whales and dolphins, but also they’re looking for oil we can’t afford to burn.”
The newest member of Greenpeace’s fleet, Taitu was bought last week after supporters crowdfunded $100,000 in just 7 days.
Greenpeace received around 3000 suggestions for a new name after it put out a call for public submissions, with the country voting on a final three up until midday today.
‘The People’s Boat’
Abel says the purchase of the boat entirely through crowdfunding and ‘people power’ reflects an important part of its identity and makes the nickname ‘The People’s Boat’ apt.
“It’s a real affirmation of public support for what we’re doing and it also shows how passionate New Zealanders are about looking after our oceans and our coastlines and our environment in general.”
Abel says the 15-metre kauri-hulled boat has led a relatively quiet life until now, although much of its 81-year history remains relatively unknown.
“It must have done all sorts of things and we’ve still got to find out exactly what all of those things are. We’re getting bits and pieces of information from everywhere.”
Abel says Greenpeace is therefore still “piecing together the history”, but does know it was a postal delivery boat in Queen Charlotte Sound, ferrying mail and people around the Sound.
Greenpeace also understands the MV Friendship may have worked as a pilot boat in Wellington, guiding larger ships into port, as it was built as a pilot boat for the Marlborough Sounds.
The purchase of the vessel also marks a bit of a Greenpeace tradition, Abel says.
“What it means to us, I guess it’s a boat in the strong Greenpeace tradition of getting old boats and repurposing them.
It’s incredibly exciting to have a boat like this as part of the Greenpeace New Zealand fleet. We figured we need to have our own boat down here.”
Former original Rainbow Warrior first mate Martini Gotjé says this is a first for Greenpeace New Zealand.
“It’s not very often a national office buys its own boat. It’s new, especially for New Zealand.
“It’s good to see.”
Both Abel and Gotjé hope to see Taitu have a legacy, like the Rainbow Warrior before it.
“Any Greenpeace boat has to build up its legacy,” Gotjé says.
Abel adds: “The legacy goes both ways I think. It both taps into tradition, an incredibly proud and successful tradition of campaigning in New Zealand to become a nuclear free beacon of hope.
“I think the legacy is one of public participation and caring for our environment, our planet, and really to any degree this boat can assist us in successes for the greater good of the planet and society, then that becomes this boat’s legacy.”
Kendall Hutt is Pacific Media Watch contributing editor of the Pacific Media Centre. She also works for Greenpeace in a part-time capacity.