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PM clams up on warship visits from nuclear armed countries

18th November 2016

PM clams up about warship visits from nuclear armed countries

The Peace Foundation has made an urgent appeal to the Ombudsman after Prime Minister John Key refused to respond to an Official Information request seeking information about the visit of the USS Sampson and other warships from nuclear weapon states until 8 December, well after the warships have left New Zealand. The Peace Foundation spokesperson Richard Northey said today that: “New Zealanders need and deserve to be reassured that no nuclear weapons are now in New Zealand during our navy’s 75th anniversary celebrations."

The Peace Foundation made a formal Official Information Request to the Prime Minister a whole three months ago, on August 15th, after an earlier letter had received an uninformative reply. It requested information about the decision-making process when the warships were given the go ahead by the government to visit New Zealand, the advice received and bodies consulted with about the projected visit of a US warship during the current naval exercises associated with our Navy’s 75th Anniversary. Only yesterday did The Peace Foundation receive a reply from Wayne Eagleson, the PM’s Chief of Staff, that unilaterally extended the deadline for a response to the Official Information Act request until 8 December, citing s15A of the Official Information Act (extension of time limits) as grounds for delaying the response However, the visit by the USS Sampson and other warships and weapons expo currently underway in Auckland will have well and truly finished by that date.

Peace Foundation spokesperson Richard Northey said today that this failure to respond in a timely way about a matter of great public interest was intolerable. “The Nuclear Free Act legislation of 1987 is absolutely iconic to New Zealanders and vital to our safety and security.

New Zealanders have a right to be sure that the Nuclear-Free New Zealand Act is being rigorously enforced and that no nuclear weapons are being bought to New Zealand on a warship from the US or any other nuclear weapon state."

After receiving no response from Wayne Eagleson to their call early yesterday afternoon, the Peace Foundation formally made an appeal to the Ombudsman to urgently consider the matter.

“It is urgent that the process, the organisations consulted and the bulk of the documents utilised by the PM and his advisers in making this decision must be released now. Although the USS Sampson has brought very warmly welcomed assistance to earthquake victims, New Zealanders have the right to be reassured that it is not also bringing nuclear weapons. Any incident of nuclear weapons use today, especially given the sheer power of the weapons that are currently stockpiled, would cause unparalleled destruction far exceeding the magnitude of any natural disaster we have experienced."

Richard Northey, Chair, International Affairs and Disarmament Committee, the Peace Foundation


Letter from Wayne Eagleson


Letter to the Ombudsman

Subject: Official Information Request relating to US Navy Ship Visit:

Correspondence attached

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am formally requesting your assistance in receiving urgent and timely, and as full as practicable, a response from the Prime Minister to our letter of 15 August requesting appropriate official information relating to a then proposed naval vessel visit to New Zealand from the US and from other nuclear weapon states.

The request was made in a sufficiently long time before the visit to ensure that sufficient appropriate information was released to us on the process of decision-making, the bodies and sources consulted and the advice received and considered before the visit took place.

It is intolerable that this has not occurred. We and the concerned public have a legitimate right to know whether New Zealand’s anti-nuclear legislation has been fully complied with. We also need the comfort of being sure that none of the vessels visiting New Zealand for our navy’s 75th anniversary commemorations are carrying nuclear weapons.

We ask you to intervene urgently and to ask the Prime Minister to release immediately as much information as practicable now, specifically including at least the process of decision-making; the principles applied in making the decision; and the people, organisations and sources consulted before these vessels were permitted to enter New Zealand waters.

Yours sincerely

Richard Northey
International Affairs and Disarmament Committee
Foundation for Peace Studies Aotearoa-New Zealand

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