History of New Zealand's Nuclear Free Zone

Larry Ross - Founder / Secretary NZ
Nuclear Free Zone Committee

The life and work of Larry Ross - an autobiography 2006.

After a successful career in advertising and marketing in Canada I emigrated with my wife and 6 children to New Zealand in June 1962. The threat of a nuclear war between the US and USSR, which could have destroyed most of humanity, was a major motivating factor for my wife and I.

I wrote and published a book, WORLD WAR III AND THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE in June 1963, in which I advanced the idea of a Nuclear Weapons-Free Southern Hemisphere and a positive role for New Zealand both to prevent nuclear war, and follow a neutral, humanitarian foreign policy toward all sides if there was a nuclear WWIII. 

I also worked with various peace organizations through the years and started the Australasian Branch of The Bertrand Russel Peace Foundation at the request of Lord Russell in about 1965. 

I started the NZ Nuclear Free Zone Committee in Jan 1982, after getting the approval from the 1981 Annual Peace Conference at Living Springs Christchurch for my five-point peace plan. That included plans to make all of New Zealand Nuclear Free with a positive foreign policy based on NZ neutrality and international peacemaking. This policy was actively promoted to NZ public and governments since 1981. In fact it seems to have become the de-facto policy of the Helen Clark government - as much as is possible, while maintaining NZ relations and past agreements with a war-bound super power and other allies. It's a very delicate balance between a very small peace-minded powerless state (NZ) and the world's only superpower (USA) that seems bent on military conquest and global domination. Often this real situation and its awful truths is overlooked by critics of government policies.

I thought that NZ, as a small isolated sovereign state with no enemies, and surrounded by oceans, could take significant disarmament steps. 

So I conceived of what I considered to be a practical, attainable goal - a New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone. If achieved, it would be a beacon of hope for mankind in the sea of nuclear madness. It might help spur on others to make their states nuclear-free or nuclear-weapon-free zones. It worked to a degree and I lectured-toured on this theme in Japan, Australia, Scandinavia, Italy, UK, Canada and the USA after our nuclear free zone was established by David Lange and his new Labour Government in 1984. However I was under no illusions. I knew the power, fabulous wealth and influence of the military-industrial complexes in various countries, backed by a corporate mass media, dedicated to supporting the war machine and suspicious of peace activists.

The first local council to become nuclear free was Devonport. It was not linked to our NZ national local body nuclear free campaign which we started in December 1981.

The final tally of local and regional councils that became nuclear-free was about 105 in 1987. This covered over 65% of the population.

The local body campaign was a vital to our overall campaign to make New Zealand a nuclear free zone. That included a national newsletter, sent to all MP's and local Councils and peace groups and members. The Parliamentary campaign included lobbying MPs and nuclear free NZ petitions and a neutral peacemaking foreign policy for the country. Arranging lecture tours of NZ by visiting experts as well as organising local groups and supporters, were other elements. 

I continue with this campaign in 2007 because we "live under a nuclear sword of Damocles, ready to drop at any moment due to accident, miscalculation or act of madness" as President Kennedy warned at the UN in 1961. That end-of-the-world prospect spurs me on. It made my wife and I move to NZ in 1962 and keep trying to warn others and to find solutions to this human-generated dilemma ever since. Like nuclear expert Helen Caldicott and many others, I believe we are moving toward the destruction of ourselves and the planet. As there will be no second chances, working for the survival of our species and planet is a constant motivation in spite of public apathy. 

It is utterly absurd and outrageous, that an administration of lying war criminals has managed to steal the US Presidency and machinery of government. They are waging endless, illegal, unjustified wars, against Iraq and Afghanistan, killing over 500,000 people and threatening to use nuclear weapons against Iran as they expand their wars to cover other countries in the Middle East. They invented “wars on terror” as a cover story for expansionist war plans to dominate Middle East oil. 

The Bush regime legalised two dangerous new nuclear war doctrines (1) Pre-emptive nuclear war, which the Bush regime may wage as they decide and (2) Introducing nuclear weapons into conventional war situations and withdrawing from or downgrading nuclear disarmament treaties.The Bush regime has become the world's greatest nuclear threat to humanity since the US began the nuclear age by dropping 2 nuclear bombs on Japan in 1945. 

New Zealand's nuclear free policies are more important today than when we first became nuclear free in 1984. During 2006 and 2007, I am lecture touring NZ and speaking on the benefits of our Nuclear Free policies and the increasing dangers of a nuclear war. Compare the enormous human and financial resources devoted to the arts of war and destruction, deceit and propaganda, with the tiny resources devoted to making a peaceful, non-nuclear, war-free, just, sustainable world. Also, huge resources are used to create lies which demonise enemies like Iran and Iraq to condition the public to support wars against these states and reject those who expose the lies. The media always publicises the lies while rejecting or marginalizing articles and most letters, which expose the lies. Most often people working for peace and exposing the lies do so voluntarily as there are very few paid peace jobs. However there are very few outlets for their work, so it is often unseen and unheard.

NZ's media bias, results in people conditioned to follow and believe the war-mongers like George Bush and his allies, Tony Blair and John Howard. Blair and Howard repeat Bush lies and help to fight his wars. New Zealand has said “no” to all our major allies to combat in Iraq. New Zealand's position is that it is a very dangerous illegal war. New Zealand's nuclear free policy and being expelled from ANZUS, help give Helen Clark's Labour government the freedom it needs to follow an independent policy toward Middle East states.

By Larry Ross
Autobiography 2006

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