New Zealand was declared a nuclear free zone by an act of parliament on the 8th of June 1987.
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Letter to Professor of Canadian History from Larry Ross, in reply to request for information on NZ Nuclear-Free.
Dear Professor Griezic,
I founded the NZ Nuclear-Free Zone Committee in 1980. We campaigned for NZ, as a sovereign state, to declare itself a nuclear free zone. To clarify things, this was not done by or for, a Pacific Coalition for a Nuclear Free Pacific Zone. That was done at government level as a multi-nation approach that resulted in THE SOUTH PACIFIC NUCLEAR FREE ZONE, treaty which all nations could sign.
That is something we supported, but it is quite different to the law for a NZ Nuclear Free Zone which went through our Parliament in 1987.
As well as a NZNFZ, we campaigned for an end to testing, nuclear disarmament, and the facts behind various conflicts. Also, for NZ to develope a new foreign policy based on NZ becoming neutral (no military alliances such as ANZUS) and developing pro-active international peacemaking policies.
That position was done because it was the right thing for us to do, and for any other nation. It was also done in anticipation of criticism that we would just become a neutral observer of the world scene relying on others to do the defending (or helping them commit mass suicide; depending on how you look at it)
Rather than passive observers, New Zealand (and maybe Canada in the future?) would be more involved than ever in a positive international role - to helping resolve conflicts, We would also support UN efforts especially in UN
peacekeeping missions, and develope NZ peacemaking skills. We would offer these where appropriate, to help resolve conflicts.
Since becoming nuclear-free in 1987, NZ has become less involved in wars for our allies, such as the US War on Iraq, and more into peacemaking and peacekeeping, reconstruction projects.
Our work in this area, since 1980, has linked NZ becoming nuclear-free, with NZ becoming a neutral, peacemaking nation. Our News Letter NUCLEAR FREE, and all our papers, speeches etc have made this link. So our role has always been more than just promoting NFZ's.
On the questions you raise about how we conducted operations we had (1) individual, (2) local body, and (3) national and to a degree (4) international campaigns.
INDIVIDUAL NUCLEAR-FREE NZ CAMPAIGN
People were encouraged to help out with individual stickers for their cars and letter-boxes etc, help gather signatures in their neighbourhoods for petitions to have their city, town or region declared a nuclear-free zone, help with clerical tasks such as collating and mailing the newsletter and other mailings. We also encouraged them to study the issue so they could write letters and articles for local and national papers, to politicians, and personally lobby their politicians. So the potential for personal involvement was extensive and could involve many skills - from licking stamps to making high-level presentations to local bodies or to goverment
LOCAL BODY NUCLEAR FREE CAMPAIGN
This involved encouraging the creation of neighbourhood peace groups throughout NZ. They in turn, would campaign for local and national nuclear free zones with petitions, presentations to coucils, systematic letter writing, lobbying etc.
With local peace groups, our role would be to send them our newsletter help them design petitions and give them effective arguments as to why local nuclear-free zones are needed and will help make NZ as a whole, a NFZ. The local groups adopted various other peace initiatives And some adopted our vision of NZ as a nuclear free, and independent or neutral, peace making nation.
David Lange promised to make all of NZ nuclear-free if Labour was elected in 1984. He said later, that the local body campaign resulting in 61% of New Zealahnders living in locally-declared NFZ's, convinced him to make this promise. That shows that our strategy produced results.
NATIONAL NUCLEAR FREE CAMPAIGN
We sent all MP's our NUCLEAR FREE newsletter, lobbying by letter and in person; wrote letters to the editor of local and national papers, made presentations to parliamentary commitees about the dangers of the nuclear arms race, the shortcomings of alliances with nuclear powers and what NZ could do for its own security. Declaring NZ a nuclear free zone, might be criticised as token, symbolic and worthless. But it was like a declaration of independance from a nuclear suicide pact that did not really protect us, but likely doomed everyone to nuclear extinction. Symbols are taken seriously and influence people, particularly those symbols like this one, that have lots of facts to back them up.
Our role was to encourage other people to work to declare their nation nuclear free, or nuclear weapon-free. We sent our newsletter around the world and I did lecture tours and publicity on Nuclear Free NZ in Europe, Japan, Australia, Canada the U.S.
I hope this answers some of your questions and I will be happy to give you more details.
Also, I am exploring the possibility of future tours in Canada and the US about the crisis in the US today which resulted in the US war on Iraq and lowering of the nuclear threshold in various ways. I agree with Helen Caldicott that the nuclear threats have never been geater since WWII. Therefore the need for NFZ's has never been greater. If you think I could help by speaking in your area, let me know.
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