09 / Nuclear-Free Policy

In the late 1960s France moved its nuclear testing programme from Algeria, in North Africa, to French Polynesia. New Zealanders were increasingly opposed to the detonation of nuclear devices in the Pacific, and in 1973 the government sent the frigate HMNZS Otago to the Mururoa testing site in protest. New Zealand’s growing anti-nuclear movement led to protests at visits by nuclear-powered warships from the United States, and a cooling of relations between the two countries. The anti-nuclear concept was further embraced by David Lange’s Labour Government in 1984. In 1985 the Greenpeace protest vessel Rainbow Warrior was blown up in Auckland Harbour by French agents, killing a protester, and within two years, this country ratified the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty. In 1987 New Zealand’s own Nuclear Free Zone Disarmament and Arms Control Act came into force. The legislation was a milestone in New Zealand’s development as a nation and has since become a sacrosanct touchstone of New Zealand foreign policy.

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