New Zealand holds firm on its Nuclear Ban

“There is only one thing more dangerous than being attacked by nuclear weapons and that is being protected by them.”

text-relevantNEW ZEALAND ROBUSTLY DEFENDS NUCLEAR BAN Eurasia Review  FEBRUARY 1, 2015 BY NEENA BHANDARI The small Pacific island country of New Zealand has punched above its weight in the international disarmament debate. For nearly three decades it has pursued an active nuclear free policy, banning entry of US warships carrying nuclear weapons or propelled by nuclear power into its ports despite being part of the ANZUS Treaty.

NZ, along with the United States (US) and Australia, was amongst the three original signatory governments to the ANZUS treaty, a trilateral framework for security arrangements and cooperation, which was concluded in 1951.

From the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, New Zealand opposed French nuclear tests in the Pacific. In 1983, the visit of the nuclear-powered frigate USS Texas sparked protests. Ordinary people spurred an anti-nuclear movement, which reached its peak in the mid-1980s and shaped NZ’s foreign policy and identity as a nation.

“It was an extremely broad campaign, which included professionals, neighbourhood groups, students, religious, non-religious, young and old. In many ways, it was the diversity and the non-hierarchical nature of the movement that was part of its appeal and strength. At one point there were over 300 local activist groups across the country,” says Marie Leadbeater, the author of `Peace, Power and Politics: How New Zealand became nuclear free

The defining moment came in July 1985 with the sinking of the Greenpeace flagship, Rainbow Warrior, which had been involved in protests over French nuclear testing.

The then Prime Minister David Lange said: “There is only one thing more dangerous than being attacked by nuclear weapons and that is being protected by them.” In 1987, the Labour government passed the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act.

“The legislation is now so well entrenched in the New Zealand psyche, that no party would propose rescinding it in the future. The National Party (the leader of the current government) has now said explicitly that they would not repeal that legislation,” Maryan Street, former NZ Labour Party Spokesperson on Disarmament and Arms Control, told IDN……….

Dangers lurking

NZ’s clean green image further promoted as 100% Pure by the Tourism NZ campaign is partly to do with the country being nuclear free. It doesn’t have nuclear power so the chances of a localised accident occurring are slim.

But Street warns: “The most real danger would be in the transporting of nuclear waste through our waters (eg: depleted uranium, yellow cake from Australia, etc.). There is no protection against that happening and therefore we would be vulnerable to an accident occurring to any of those vessels. Protection against that would require new legislation around hazardous goods and substances.”

NZ has been very active in highlighting the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons in direct contrast to Australia. By October 2014,155 countries had signed the NZ-led UN statement on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons.

Agrees Kennedy Graham, Green Party MP with responsibility for global affairs. “There is multi-party support now for New Zealand’s Nuclear Free Zone legislation.”………………..

Successive opinion polls in Australia have shown that Australians overwhelmingly reject nuclear weapons. “Yet our government, in deference to the US, remains opposed to the idea of a treaty banning these ultimate weapons of mass destruction. We are calling on the government to rule out any role for nuclear weapons in our nation’s military doctrines, just as New Zealand did in the 1980s, and to join efforts to achieve a global ban”, Australia Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Tim Wright, told IDN.

Australia is part of the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty and like NZ, Australia also has nuclear-free legislation, the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty Act 1986. “However, this legislation (and the treaty itself) doesn’t prevent US nuclear-armed vessels from entering Australian ports, nor does it prevent Australia from maintaining its policy of extended nuclear deterrence”, says Wright.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: