New Zealand nuclear-free zone
In 1984, Prime Minister David Lange barred nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed ships from using New Zealand ports or entering New Zealand waters. Under the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act 1987, territorial sea, land and airspace of New Zealand became nuclear-free zones. This has since remained a part of New Zealand's foreign policy.
The Act prohibits "entry into the internal waters of New Zealand 12 nautical miles (22.2 km, 13 13⁄16 statute miles) radius by any ship whose propulsion is wholly or partly dependent on nuclear power" and bans the dumping of radioactive waste into the sea within the nuclear-free zone, as well as prohibiting any New Zealand citizen or resident "to manufacture, acquire, possess, or have any control over any nuclear explosive device." The nuclear-free zone Act does not prohibit nuclear power plants, nuclear research facilities, the use of radioactive isotopes, or other land-based nuclear activities.
After the Disarmament and Arms Control Act was passed by the Lange-led Labour government, the United States government suspended its ANZUS obligations to New Zealand. The legislation was a milestone in New Zealand's development as a nation and seen as an important act of sovereignty, self-determination and cultural identity. New Zealand's three decade anti-nuclear campaign is the only successful movement of its type in the world which resulted in the nation's nuclear-weapon-free zone status being enshrined in legislation.
Initial seeds were sown for New Zealand's 1987 nuclear free zone legislation in the late 1950s with the formation of the local Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) organisation between 1957 and 1959. In 1959, responding to rising public concern following the British hydrogen bomb tests in Australia and the Pacific, New Zealand voted in the UN to condemn nuclear testing while the UK, US and France voted against, and Australia abstained. In 1961, CND urged the New Zealand government to declare that it would not acquire or use nuclear weapons and to withdraw from nuclear alliances such as ANZUS. In 1963, the Auckland CND campaign submitted its 'No Bombs South of the Line' petition to the New Zealand parliament with 80,238 signatures calling on the government to sponsor an international conference to discuss establishing a nuclear-free-zone in the southern hemisphere. It was the biggest petition in the nation since the one in 1893 which demanded that women must have the right to vote.
Mururoa atoll, and its sister atoll Fangataufa, in French Polynesia in the southern Pacific Ocean were officially established as a nuclear test site by France on 21 September 1962 and extensive nuclear testing occurred between 1966 and 1996. The first nuclear test, codenamed Aldebaran, was conducted on 2 July 1966 and forty-one atmospheric nuclear tests were conducted at Mururoa between 1966 and 1974.
In March 1976 over 20 anti nuclear and environmental groups, including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, met in Wellington and formed a loose coalition called the Campaign for Non-Nuclear Futures (CNNF). The coalition's mandate was to oppose the introduction of nuclear power and to promote renewable energy alternatives such as wind, wave, solar and geothermal power. They launched Campaign Half Million. CNNF embarked on a national education exercise producing the largest petition against nuclear power in New Zealand's history with 333,087 signatures by October 1976. This represented over 10% of the country's total population of 3 million. At this time, New Zealand's only nuclear reactor was a small sub-critical reactor that had been installed at the School of Engineering of the University of Canterbury in 1962. It had been given by the United States' Atoms for Peace programme and was used for training electrical engineers in nuclear techniques. It was dismantled in 1981.
Community inspired anti-nuclear sentiments largely contributed to the New Zealand Labour Party election victory under Norman Kirk in 1972. In June 1973, the International Court of Justice (pursuant to a case launched by Australia and New Zealand) ordered that the French cease atmospheric nuclear testing at Mururoa atoll while the case was being heard by the Court. However, the French ignored this ruling. Mururoa was the site of numerous protests by various vessels, including the Rainbow Warrior. In a symbolic act of protest the Kirk government sent two of its navy frigates, HMNZS Canterbury and Otago, into the test zone area in 1973. A Cabinet Minister (Fraser Colman) was randomly selected to accompany this official New Zealand Government protest fleet. This voyage included a number of local kiwi peace organisations who had organised an international flotilla of protest yachts that accompanied the frigates into the Mururoa zone. Many of the early NZ peace activists and organisations were enthusiastic young hippies and students, many of whom were involved with the counter-culture and the original opposition to the Vietnam War movements.
Peace yachts attempting to disrupt the French tests sailed in coordinated protests through the Mururoa exclusion zones between 1972-1991. These included the voyage of the first joint Greenpeace-CND campaign in 1972 with David McTaggart, (who co-founded Greenpeace), on the yacht Vega (renamed Greenpeace III). This was followed in 1973 by a flotilla of yachts organised by the Peace Media with protest yachts Fri, Spirit of Peace, the Boy Roel, Magic Isle and the Tanmure.
During numerous voyages to Mururoa atoll the protest yachts Fri, Vegas and Greenpeace were boarded by French commandos and members of their crew assaulted and arrested. In 1973 the Vega was rammed by a French military warship and David McTaggart was severely beaten by French military police. A major change in New Zealand society caused by these Pacific campaigns was the upsurge in pro anti-nuclear sentiments in New Zealand and, as a consequence, the eventual rise of its anti-nuclear policy in 1987.
According to French journalist Luis Gonzales-Mata in Actual magazine 1976, large numbers of Polynesians had been secretly sent on military flights to Paris for treatment for cancer. Tahitian activist Charlie Ching told a nuclear-free Pacific hui in Auckland in 1983 that more than 200 Tahitians had died from radiation-linked illnesses over 5 years. Due to the secrecy of health issues in French Polynesia, these figures remained impossible to confirm.
In August 2006 people of French Polynesia welcomed an official report by the French Government confirming the link between an increase in the cases of thyroid cancer and France's atmospheric nuclear tests in the territory since 1966.
Nuclear-free zone legislation
In the early 1980s, National Party Prime Minister Rob Muldoon had lost the support of some of the MPs from his own party over several environmental issues. In particular, maverick National Party Members of Parliament Marilyn Waring and Mike Minogue threatened the slight government majority. In 1984, the opposition New Zealand Labour Party proposed the nuclear-free zone legislation. Muldoon strongly opposed the proposal, fearing it might compromise New Zealand's national security. However, as he failed to secure Marilyn Waring's support on the issue, and as the National Party had a majority of only one, Muldoon decided to call a snap election, the New Zealand general election, 1984, stating that Waring's "feminist anti-nuclear stance" threatened his ability to govern. Muldoon was famously drunk when he announced the election, and ignored warnings from party president Sue Wood that the party organisation was unprepared for a campaign. The National Party lost the election, and the Labour Party formed a new government.
According to opinion polls taken before the 1984 election, 30 per cent of New Zealanders supported visits by US warships with a clear majority of 58 per cent opposed, and over 66 per cent of the population lived in locally declared nuclear free zones. Following the victory of the New Zealand Labour Party in elections in 1984, Prime Minister David Lange barred nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed ships from using New Zealand ports or entering New Zealand waters. Reasons given were the dangers of nuclear weapons, continued nuclear testing in the South Pacific, and opposition to US President Ronald Reagan's policy of aggressively confronting the Soviet Union. Given that the United States Navy refused to confirm or deny the presence of nuclear weapons aboard ships, these laws essentially refused access to New Zealand ports for all United States Navy ships. In February 1985, a port-visit request by the United States for the USS Buchanan was refused by the New Zealand government on the basis that the Buchanan was capable of launching nuclear depth bombs. An opinion poll commissioned by the 1986 Defence Committee of Enquiry confirmed that 92 per cent now opposed nuclear weapons in New Zealand and 69 per cent opposed warship visits; 92 per cent wanted New Zealand to promote nuclear disarmament through the UN, while 88 per cent supported the promotion of nuclear free zones.
Under the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act 1987 territorial sea and land of New Zealand became nuclear free zones. The Act prohibits "entry into the internal waters of New Zealand 12 n. mi. (22.2 km/13-13/16 st. mi.) radius by any ship whose propulsion is wholly or partly dependent on nuclear power" and bans the dumping of radioactive waste into the sea within the nuclear-free zone, as well as prohibiting any New Zealand citizen or resident "to manufacture, acquire, possess, or have any control over any nuclear explosive device." Similar provisions were made for biological weapons. After this Act was passed by the Labour government of David Lange, the United States government suspended its ANZUS obligations to New Zealand. Following consultations with Australia and after negotiations with New Zealand broke down, the United States reiterated that it was suspending its treaty obligations until United States Navy ships were re-admitted to New Zealand ports, citing that New Zealand was "a friend, but not an ally". The crisis made front-page headlines for weeks in many American newspapers, while many leading American senators were quoted as expressing a deep sense of betrayal. However, David Lange did not withdraw New Zealand from ANZUS, although his government's policy led to the US's decision to suspend its treaty obligations to New Zealand. The legislation was a milestone in New Zealand's development as a nation and seen as an important act of sovereignty, self-determination and cultural identity. Further, many were driven by a sense of responsibility to support peace and the rights of all humans, not just in New Zealand, but worldwide.
New Zealand has long maintained an independent foreign policy initiative, with various Governments ignoring American and other countries' policy demands. While New Zealand meets its international responsibilities towards maintaining global peace, its pacifist based anti-nuclear stance reflects the mainstream ideology held by the majority of its residents. New Zealand's opposition to nuclear weapons is rooted in the belief that the proliferation of such weapons of mass destruction does not reflect an attempt to preserve peace in the form of a nuclear deterrent. New Zealand's nuclear-free zone option looks to remove the nation from under the nuclear umbrella.
Rainbow Warrior affair
Greenpeace continued an unrelenting protest offensive in French Polynesia until 1996. The Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior was sunk by the French foreign intelligence agency (DGSE) while docked in Auckland harbour, New Zealand, on 10 July 1985.
It is often speculated that the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior was an act of revenge against Greenpeace and New Zealanders themselves for their successful campaigns to enforce a nuclear weapons test ban at Mururoa. When the French DGSE agents Commander Alain Mafart and Captain Dominique Prieur were captured in New Zealand and eventually sentenced to 10 years prison for their roles in sabotage of the Rainbow Warrior and manslaughter of Fernando Pereira, the French government threatened New Zealand with trade sanctions to the European Union if the pair were not released.
From a Pacific perspective, the military attack on the Rainbow Warrior only served to consolidate New Zealand's and the Pacific communities nuclear free zone ambitions. (Treaty of Rarotonga - South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty). The attack served to further isolate the French in that part of the world, which resulted in strong anti-French political campaigns for independence in Tahiti (see French Polynesian legislative election, 2004) and New Caledonia (see Politics of New Caledonia).
In 1982, a song called "French Letter" by New Zealand band Herbs came to express the country's anti-nuclear stance. The track, with lyrics telling the French to get out of the Pacific and 'no nukes' became a big hit and spent 11 weeks on the charts. Fourteen years later, it was re-recorded to garner support for the prevention of nuclear testing at Mururoa. Similarly, "No Nukes (The Second Letter)", "Nuclear Waste" and "Light Of The Pacific" expressed much the same sentiment.
New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone Extension Bill
Since the 1990s there has been significant movement towards strengthening New Zealand's 1987 Nuclear Free Zone legislation. In her first term in parliament, Jeanette Fitzsimons, leader of the New Zealand Greens, introduced a members bill to the House on 25 May 2000, the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone Extension Bill. This, she says, sets out to fill gaps in the 1987 legislation and seeks to prohibit the transit of nuclear armed or propelled warships and transport of nuclear waste though the 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Fitzsimons argues that there have been two major developments since the 1987 legislation that justify updating the Act:
Firstly, the International Court of Justice, prompted especially by New Zealand, has declared the deployment of nuclear weapons to be illegal. This justifies taking an even stronger stance on where they may be carried. The numbers of those weapons, and the States holding them, have increased, despite the end of the cold war. Uncertainties around the intentions of nuclear states and the location and safety of weapons have made disarmament an even more urgent priority now than it was in the 1980s. Secondly, nuclear fuel reprocessing has gone global, with shipments of highly hazardous plutonium mixed-oxide fuel and high-level waste passing regularly between Japan and Europe, sometimes through the Tasman Sea.
If adopted, the Bill would mount a serious challenge to the continued deployment of nuclear weapons throughout the world's oceans. The New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone Extension bill lost its second reading on 29 May 2002. Opposition to amending New Zealand's anti-nuclear legislation came from the New Zealand Labour Party, who say that implementing the detail would be impossible and could make the proposed new legislation unenforceable. They said the bill breaches a fundamental principle of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which requires all countries to allow freedom of navigation through their EEZs. However, anti-nuclear activists remain confident that the amendments to New Zealand's nuclear legislation will eventually pass, citing grey areas of the law in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. There is a firm belief amongst New Zealanders, as indicated by polls, that New Zealand must take leadership on this vital International issue.
Under the previous Labour government, its Prime Minister Helen Clark maintained New Zealand's nuclear-free zone status, a bipartisan position supported by the opposition New Zealand National Party. In a 2008 survey, 19% of New Zealanders favouring nuclear as a power source, more than both gas and coal power, but well behind wind, solar, geothermal and hydroelectricity.
The United States wants New Zealand to repeal its nuclear-free legislation, which would then allow U.S. warships carrying nuclear weapons to visit New Zealand ports. Pressure from the United States increased in 2006, with U.S. trade officials linking the repeal of the ban of American nuclear ships from New Zealand's ports to a potential free-trade agreement between the two countries. In 2004, then opposition leader Don Brash refused to confirm or deny that he told visiting US senators the nuclear ban would be repealed "by lunchtime" if he was elected prime minister. Brash quit politics after losing the 2005 election and "gone by lunchtime" became a political catchphrase in New Zealand.
Differences between the French and New Zealand governments now appear to be resolved with both countries enjoying positive trade and cultural exchanges. In August 2006 people of French Polynesia welcomed an official report by the French Government confirming the link between an increase in the cases of thyroid cancer and France's atmospheric nuclear tests in the territory since 1966.
On 8 June 2007 during Parliamentary debate on New Zealand's Nuclear-Free Legislations 20th Anniversary, the Hon Phil Goff (Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control) reaffirmed his Government's commitment to New Zealand's Nuclear free Zone legislation. Phil Goff said,
I move, That this House note that 8 June 2007 is the 20th anniversary of the passing by this House of the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act 1987 and resolve that New Zealand should continue to work for a nuclear weapon – free world; and that, in striving for a world free of nuclear weapons, the House call for: the implementation and strengthening of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, including the unequivocal undertaking made by nuclear weapon States in 2000 to move towards the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals; the expansion and strengthening of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones and a nuclear weapon – free Southern Hemisphere; the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty; the enactment of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty; and the universal implementation of nuclear non-proliferation instruments such as the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540.
in November 2016, USS Sampson (DDG-102) became the first US warship to call in New Zealand in 33 years.
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