History of the anti-nuclear movement in New Zealand

Page - December 14, 2006
New Zealand has long been a nation of people willing to stand up and proclaim “no nukes”. It was the anti-nuclear movement that saw the founding of Greenpeace in New Zealand. Below is a timeline of some of the events that trace our nation’s history and conviction to be Nuclear Free.

1949 - The Peace and Anti-Conscription Council is set up in New Zealand.

1951 - New Zealand and Australia align with the United States via the ANZUS agreement.

1959 - The New Zealand Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) Movement is formed.

1960 - The nuclear submarine USS Halibut visits New Zealand - the first nuclear powered vessel to come here.

1961 - The first Hiroshima Day commemoration marches take place in centres throughout the country.

1963 - CND organises a petition "No Bombs South of the Line" advocating a nuclear-free southern hemisphere. The petition is signed by 80,000 people.

1964 - France transfers its testing to Moruroa Atoll, French Polynesia.

1972 - Anger at French testing becomes widespread. Sailing yacht Vega sails for Moruroa Atoll from New Zealand, under the Greenpeace name.

1972 - 10,000 people sign a petition against French nuclear testing in the South Pacific. More yachts leave for Moruroa Atoll, including one with Matiu Rata, a Cabinet Minister of Parliament, on board.

1973 - The Vega sails again into the test zone. This time the French Navy beat David McTaggart - the photos go worldwide.

The New Zealand and Australian Governments take France to the World Court over continued atmospheric testing. The Government sends the frigate Otago, and then the Canterbury, to the test zone. Other New Zealand yachts, including the Fri, sail in protest.

1974 - Greenpeace New Zealand officially founded.

1976 - The new National Government announces it will welcome nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed warships. There are massive street marches in response. The USS Truxton is brought to a halt by a spectacular protest fleet of 80 vessels, and the public protest the visit of the USS Long Beach.

1978 - Public protests are held against the visit of USS Pintado. There was clearly deep concern of the risks posed by this technology.

A new campaign starts to declare cars, houses, boroughs and city council areas nuclear-free zones.

1979 - Public protests are held against the visit of USS Haddo. Between 1978 and 1983 the opposition to nuclear-powered or armed ships rose from 32 to 72 percent.

1983 - Auckland sees the biggest anti-nuclear march when 25,000 women march up Queen St.

1984 - Election year in New Zealand. As the election approaches, as a result of intense public pressure, the Labour party commits itself to work actively for a nuclear-free Pacific, to ban nuclear-powered or nuclear weapon carrying ships, and to renegotiate the ANZUS Treaty.

The US decide to test the resolve of the new Labour Government to move towards a Nuclear Free NZ by requesting permission for the ship USS Buchanan to visit. David Lange, the new Prime Minister showed he meant business by saying, "No".

1985 - The Greenpeace flagship, Rainbow Warrior is bombed and a crew member is murdered by French Government Secret Agents. The ship had been preparing to leave to protest against French nuclear testing at Moruroa, French Polynesia.

1987 - The New Zealand Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act comes into force, which is the Act making New Zealand a nuclear-free nation.

1990 - Prior to the national election, the National Party commits itself to keep New Zealand nuclear-free.

1994 - New Zealand is the only Western Nation to vote in favour of the resolution before the UN General Assembly asking for an advisory ruling on the legality of the threat of use, or use of nuclear weapons.

1995 - On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the Rainbow Warrior bombing, and the anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, French President Jacques Chirac announces the resumption of nuclear testing at Moruroa. A massive flotilla leaves from New Zealand to protest. Two Greenpeace ships are arrested.

All political parties declare unanimous opposition to French nuclear testing.

1996 - International Court Justice gives its advisory opinion on the general illegality on nuclear weapons.

1997 - The Model Nuclear Weapons Convention is drafted under the auspices of the Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy and circulated by the UN Secretary-General as a UN document (one of the two drafters was New Zealander, Alyn Ware the other was Merav Datan).

1998 - Foreign ministers from eight countries, including New Zealand's Foreign Minister, released a declaration calling for a new agenda for nuclear disarmament.

1999 - A group of New Zealanders participate in the historic Hague Appeal for Peace Conference.

2000 -The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference adopts 13 steps for nuclear disarmament by consensus, including the nuclear weapon states. New Zealand Disarmament Ambassador Clive Pearson chaired the sub-committee responsible for negotiating these steps.

2002 - New Zealand section of the Parliamentary Network for Nuclear Disarmament is established.