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Pacific.scoop.co.nz » 50 Years Since New Zealand Government’s Pacific Nuclear Protest

Pacific.scoop.co.nz » 50 Years Since New Zealand Government’s Pacific Nuclear Protest

Press Release – Ministry For Culture And Heritage

This Wednesday marks 50 years since the New Zealand Government sent a frigate to French Polynesia to protest testing of nuclear weapons at Mururoa Atoll. “On 28 June 1973, HMNZS Otago sailed from Auckland, carrying a crew of 242 and Minister …

This Wednesday marks 50 years since the New Zealand Government sent a frigate to French Polynesia to protest testing of nuclear weapons at Mururoa Atoll.

“On 28 June 1973, HMNZS Otago sailed from Auckland, carrying a crew of 242 and Minister of Immigration Fraser Colman. This was the first commitment from Prime Minister Norman Kirk to stand against the atmospheric nuclear testing happening in our Pacific neighbourhood,” said Glenis Philip-Barbara, Pou Mataaho o Te Hua, Deputy Chief Executive, Delivery.

“This historic action followed two years of protests from across Aotearoa and internationally. The Otago joined vessels from Aotearoa, Australia, Tahiti, Fiji, Samoa and Peru which had previously sailed to French Polynesia to protest nuclear testing.”

In July, the crew aboard the Otago witnessed the first atmospheric test of 1973. Colman transferred to HMNZS Canterbury when it arrived to relieve Otago, and he and the crew saw the second atmospheric test on Mururoa.

Following the protest, the New Zealand and Australian governments, alongside the Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Samoa, took France to the international Court of Justice.

In 1974, the new French president, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, decided that future tests would be held underground.

“The efforts of those who sailed to the Pacific, both on civilian vessels and the veterans of HMNZS Otago and Canterbury, were a key part of Aotearoa becoming nuclear free,” said Glenis Philip-Barbara.

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“Civic activism paved the way for our political leaders to make a strong international statement on this issue.

“The sailing of HMNZS Otago into Pacific waters at this time confirmed that the Government was listening to the voices of the people.

“Sending the Otago to Mururoa was also a key moment in Aotearoa’s diplomatic relationship with other Pacific nations, emphasising our responsibility to champion voices from across Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa.

“This anniversary is an opportunity to reflect on the legacy of these protests and how they shaped the Pacific nation we live in today,” said Glenis Philip-Barbara.

After another 14 years of protest, the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act was passed in 1987, making Aotearoa officially nuclear free. However, for Mururoa, it would be some time before nuclear activity ceased with the atoll remaining a focus of anti-nuclear protests until the final underground explosion in 1996.

More information about New Zealand’s nuclear free journey is available at:

 

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  • June 25, 2023