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Urgent ! NZ Nuclear Free Zone Extension Bill

23 June 2000

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Urgent ! NZ Nuclear Free Zone Extension Bill


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Kia ora,

On Wednesday 28 June, the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone Extension Bill (2000) will have its first reading in parliament. To ensure it gets through the first reading and goes on to Select Committee (which may allow for public submissions), please immediately contact your local MP and any local list MPs and urge them to vote at the first reading to send the Bill to Select Committee - it must not be voted out at the first reading.

You could also fax or write to Helen Clark as Labour Party leader and Jim Anderton as Alliance leader and urge them to support the Bill at its first reading themselves, and to ensure all Labour and Alliance MPs support it too. In addition, ‘Letters to the Editor’ of the nationally distributed media may assist this Bill to survive. Contact details for all these are at the end of this alert. Copies of the Bill are available from PMA by fax or post.

* Comment

The difficulty some politicians seem to be having in supporting this Bill relates to a perceived conflict of interest between the rights of passage for ships inherent in the Law of the Sea, and the sovereign right of a nation to protect its economic exclusion zone and coastline from harm. This perceived conflict of interest is covered in paragraph 7 of the section ‘Information on the Bill’ below.

* Information on the Bill

The aim of the Bill is to extend the NZ nuclear free zone from 12 miles to 200 miles from the NZ coast and to prohibit the transit of high level nuclear waste, nuclear weapons and nuclear-power ships through that extended zone.

The General Policy Statement which accompanies the Bill reads as follows:

The Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act 1987 is severely limited in its ability to protect NZ from possible nuclear accidents which would devastate our waters and coastline.

[The Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act 1987] legislation controls only up to 12 miles from the NZ shore.

[The Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act 1987] is primarily concerned with controlling nuclear weapons and nuclear testing within the NZ nuclear free zone, and prohibiting nuclear powered ships from entering NZ ports. It does not prevent the transit of nuclear powered ships or ships carrying radioactive wastes.

International shipments of high level nuclear waste and reprocessed fuel have greatly increased in frequency and size. Reprocessed fuel can be adapted for use in nuclear weapons.

NZ has the right and duty to protect the marine environment and its living resources in its exclusive economic zone, up to 200 miles from shore. Under the Law of the Sea, ships have some rights of navigation through this zone; yet if those ships carry a cargo which could contaminate marine resources for centuries, this creates a conflict with the purpose of the exclusive economic zone. This bill resolves that conflict, for NZ, in favour of environmental protection, and brings NZ into line with the practice of other concerned states and developing international law.

This bill extends the NZ nuclear free zone up to 200 miles and specifically prohibits the passage through it of nuclear propelled ships or ships carrying radioactive wastes, or reprocessed nuclear fuels.

* Provisions of the Bill by clause

Clause 4 inserts into the principal Act definitions of ‘exclusive economic zone of NZ’ and ‘radioactive waste’.

Clause 5 extends the nuclear free zone to coincide with the exclusive economic zone.

Clause 6 extends the prohibition on transport of nuclear weapons from just inland and internal waters to the full nuclear free zone.

Clause 7 extends the prohibition on nuclear powered ships from just internal waters (ie harbours) to the nuclear free zone.

Clause 8 prohibits the passage through the zone of ships carrying radioactive wastes or the types of highly radioactive materials which are destined for, or produced by, nuclear fuel reprocessing. Radioactive waste has been defined in terms of the International Atomic Energy Code for Transboundary Movement of Radioactive Waste. The Code exempts low level wastes of the type produced by medical and scientific uses of radionuclides by providing for countries to set exemption levels. NZ has not yet done so, but the National Radiation Laboratory is equipped to set radiological limits and has done so for other purposes.

Clause 9 repeals the right of innocent passage for ships carrying prohibited materials but allows the Prime Minister to grant approval for a ship in distress where this will avert a potential accident.

* Contact details for Members of Parliament

~ If you do not know the local contact details for your MP, you can telephone the switchboard at parliament tel (04) 471 9999, ask to be put through to your MP’s office and get the details there.

~ Letters - all letters should be addressed to the relevant person and posted (no stamp needed) to Parliament Buildings, Wellington.

~ Phone calls and faxes: Helen Clark, Prime Minister, office - tel (04) 471 9998, fax (04) 473 3579; Jim Anderton, Deputy Prime Minister, office - tel (04) 471 9011, fax (04) 495 8441. You could also send a message to Cabinet collectively, if you do this now then it will be there for their meeting on Monday - tel (04) 471 9743, fax (04) 472 6332.

* Contact details for the national / nationally distributed media

Christchurch Press, fax (03) 364 8492, ; Dominion, fax (04) 4740257; Evening Post, fax; (04) 474 0237, ; New Zealand Herald, fax (09) 373 6434, ; Sunday Star Times, fax (09) 309 0258; Press Association, fax (04) 473 7480; Radio New Zealand, fax (04) 473 0185; Listener, fax (09) 360 3831,

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Peace Movement Aotearoa
the national networking group for peace people
PO Box 9314, Wellington, Aotearoa / New Zealand.
tel +64 4 382 8129, fax 382 8173,
website < http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/>
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