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Opportunity Missed To Extend Nuclear Free Zone

Opportunity Missed To Extend New Zealand's Nuclear Free Zone

Green Party Disarmament Spokesperson Keith Locke is disappointed a parliamentary select committee has rejected a Green Party bill seeking to extend New Zealand's nuclear free zone.

The select committee report rejecting Jeanette Fitzsimons' bill was reported back to parliament today.

"New Zealand is missing the opportunity to build on it's pioneering anti-nuclear legislation of the 1980s," said Mr Locke, the Green member of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee.

"The select committee heard persuasive evidence from international lawyers that excluding nuclear armed ships from our territorial waters and 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) would be consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

"The lawyers argued that in 1996 the World Court outlawed the threat or use of nuclear weapons, and therefore nuclear armed warships could not claim 'innocent passage' through our waters or claim to be there for peaceful purposes," said Mr Locke. The lawyers advising the committee included Judge Weeranmantry, a former World Court judge.

"We believe the committee should have prohibited nuclear waste ships passing through our EEZ. Greenpeace lawyers argued that the duty to protect the marine environment under the Law of the Sea justified the exclusion of such ships. Other countries are already putting conditions on the passage of ships containing radioactive materials."

Mr Locke said New Zealand's cases to the World Court in the 1970s and 1980s against French nuclear tests, as well as our nuclear-free legislation, were unilateral initiatives that helped create a climate for further legal advances, such as the World Court decision against the threat and use of nuclear weapons.

"By not excluding nuclear-armed ships from our EEZ, New Zealand is falling behind signatories to the South East Asian Nuclear Free Zone Treaty who agree not to carry nuclear weapons through the EEZs of countries in the zone.

"Also, if we don't take a stronger legal stand against the seaborne passage of nuclear waste, we might find the Tasman Sea becomes the route of least resistance for such shipments," he said.

"We believe extending the nuclear free zone would have tied in nicely with our disarmament work with the New Agenda Coalition, and our campaign for a nuclear weapons free Southern Hemisphere."

Ends

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