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Urgent! NZ Nuclear Free Extension Zone Bill

21 August 2001

Urgent! NZ Nuclear Free Extension Zone Bill

Kia ora,

The NZ Nuclear Free Zone Extension Bill is likely to be stopped in its tracks next week. On 30 or 31 August the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade will report back to parliament on the Bill, and we anticipate that their recommendation to parliament will be that the Bill proceeds no further. This alert is in two parts: 1) a summary of the background to this alert; and 2) what you can do if you are receiving this message here in Aotearoa, or overseas.

Acting on this alert looks likely to be the last chance you will have to influence the progress of this legislation - it is not only important for the wellbeing of this country, but would set an extremely useful example for other governments in the Pacific and around the world to follow.

It is a practical challenge to the arrogant former and current colonial powers who inflict their nuclear weapons on all the peoples of the world, whether we want them or not; and to those who insist on transporting their nuclear waste without regard for the possible consequences.

1) BACKGROUND INFORMATION

In June 2000, the Green party put forward the NZ Nuclear Free Zone Extension Bill. The aim of the Bill is to extend the NZ nuclear free zone from its current limit which is to the edge of the territorial waters, 12 miles from the coast. The extension would prohibit the transport and transit of high level nuclear waste, nuclear weapons and nuclear-powered vessels within the 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone.

The current Labour-Alliance coalition government made it clear from the start that they would not support the Bill, but it survived the first reading by 67 to 53 votes on 5 July 2000. The Bill was sent to the Foreign Affairs and Trade Select Committee for public submissions to be made. Submissions were made by a number of peace, disarmament, environment and other groups supportive of the Bill; and individuals such as Judge Christopher Weeramantry, one of International Court of Justice judges who heard the case regarding the illegality of nuclear weapons.

Various government spokespeople had said that they would not support the Bill because it breached UNCLOS (the Law of the Sea), in particular the ‘right of innocent passage’. Most of the submissions supporting the Bill touched on this matter and other aspects of international law. In relation specifically to nuclear weapons, the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice provided the basis for the counter argument that nuclear weapons deployment on ships or submarines could hardly be described as ‘innocent’.

In relation to nuclear weapons, nuclear waste shipments and nuclear propelled vessels, there is a counter argument that UNCLOS itself has contradictions - on the one hand the ‘right of innocent passage’, on the other the sovereign right of “the protection and preservation of the marine environment” [UNCLOS Part V, 56.1(iii)]. When taken together with other provisions in international conventions and declarations which give sovereign states the right to protect their environment (in particular Principle 15 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development), then it is clear that the contradiction within UNCLOS could be resolved in favour of protection of our marine resources.

However, it was clear while making the submissions to the Select Committee that the opinion which would matter most was that put forward by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade - and they say passing the Bill is in breach of UNCLOS. Presumably they also have other points, such as the possible reactions from the governments of the US, France (who the NZ government is developing an unhealthy military relationship with, see for example the PMA and PCRC alerts at http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/nfrewar.htm and http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/nfrench.htm), Britain and Japan. However, as Ministry briefings are not covered by the Official Information Act, people such as ourselves are not permitted to view them until after the Select Committee report goes to parliament! Such is democracy in this country.

In addition, members of the Select Committee seemed concerned that there might be ‘repercussions’ if this Bill is passed - interesting given that the Chilean government (as one example) sent warships to order ships carrying nuclear waste not to cross into their Exclusive Economic Zone, and there were no repercussions for that rather more directly threatening action!

Instead of taking up this alert with all the details of the Bill and the arguments in favour of it, you can get more information from the following webpages: - an outline of the provisions of the Bill at http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/a230600.htm

- the PMA background briefing on the Bill at http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/subnfz.htm

- the WILPF submission on the Bill which contains further information, and an example of existing domestic legislation which could be applied to this Bill, at http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/suwilpf.htm

2) WHAT YOU CAN DO

There are three sections to this: a) for people living in Aotearoa; b) for people living overseas; c) mass media contacts for everyone to use.

a) For people living in Aotearoa:

please tel, write or fax Helen Clark (Prime Minister), Jim Anderton (Deputy Prime Minister), Matt Robson (Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control), Cabinet; and lobby your local MP and any list MP who lives in your area urging them not to accept the recommendation of the Select Committee (if the recommendation is to drop the Bill) but rather to support the Bill having its second and third readings and being passed into law.

It is especially important that you make your views known before Monday 27 August, the last Cabinet meeting before the Select Committee presents its report.

Contact details for politicians: * Phone calls and faxes (these numbers to be prefixed by 04 by people outside Wellington) - Helen Clark, Prime Minister, office - tel 471 9998, fax 473 3579; Jim Anderton, Deputy Prime Minister, office - tel 471 9011, fax 495 8441; Matt Robson, Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control, office - tel 470 6659, fax 495 8462; The Cabinet (collectively), office - tel 471 9743, fax 472 6332.

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

Please also send a copy of your correspondence and of any replies to PMA for our files.

b) For people living outside Aotearoa/NZ:

please fax Helen Clark (Prime Minister), Jim Anderton (Deputy Prime Minister), Matt Robson (Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control) and the Cabinet of the NZ government urging them not to accept the recommendation of the Select Committee (if the recommendation is to drop the Bill) but rather to support the Bill having its second and third readings and being passed into law. You could also tell them how appreciative you are of the NZ government’s stated position on nuclear disarmament (and how disappointed you will be should this prove to be a sham!). Any words of encouragement along the lines of putting their words into action would be useful.

It is especially important that you make your views known before Monday 27 August, the last Cabinet meeting before the Select Committee presents its report.

Contact details for politicians: * Phone calls and faxes (these numbers to be prefixed by + 64 4 for those outside Aotearoa/NZ ) - Helen Clark, Prime Minister, office - tel 471 9998, fax 473 3579; Jim Anderton, Deputy Prime Minister, office - tel 471 9011, fax 495 8441; Matt Robson, Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control, office - tel 470 6659, fax 495 8462; The Cabinet (collectively), office - tel 471 9743, fax 472 6332.

Please also send a copy of your correspondence and of any replies to PMA for our files.

c) Contact details for mass media:

(for those receiving this overseas, drop the ‘’ in the brackets, add +64 in front of the second digit)

Christchurch Press, fax (03) 364 8492, editorial@press.co.nz; Dominion, fax (04) 4740257; Evening Post, fax; (04) 474 0237, editor@evpost.co.nz; New Zealand Herald, fax (09) 373 6434, letters@herald.co.nz; Sunday Star Times, fax (09) 309 0258; NZ Press Association, fax (04) 473 7480; Radio New Zealand, fax (04) 473 0185; Listener, fax (09) 360 3831, editor@listener.co.nz


Peace Movement Aotearoa
the national networking peace group
PO Box 9314, Wellington, Aotearoa / New Zealand.
tel +64 4 382 8129, fax 382 8173, pma@xtra.co.nz
website http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/
Internet Peace Gateway http://www.peace.org.nz

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