Nuclear free New Zealand

Tēnā tātou te iwi. The next week or so sees a couple of significant anniversaries relating to New Zealand's fight against French nuclear testing in the Pacific. It seems hard to believe that nearly forty years have passed since the New Zealand and Australian governments took France to the International Court of Justice in an attempt to ban testing in our region. France refused to accept the Court's injunction against its atmospheric nuclear testing prompting the Kirk Labour Government to send two frigates, HMNZS Canterbury and Otago, into the international waters around the test area at Mururoa. Fraser Colman a member of Kirk's cabinet accompanied this daring protest when his name was drawn from a hat. The Otago arrived off Mururoa a month later, and those on board witnessed the first French test. Colman transferred to HMNZS Canterbury when it arrived to relieve the Otago on 25 July, and he and the crew of the Canterbury watched the second test.

The protests had some success. In 1974 the new French president, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, decided that future tests would be held underground. Mururoa remained the focus of anti-nuclear protest until France's last nuclear test there in early 1996.

Year 11 history students will find New Zealand's response to this issue of great releavance to our search for security in the nuclear age following the Second World War. Other year levels will find it a useful case study in looking at protest and action in this country as well as an important study in the development of an independent New Zealand foreign policy.

Tēnā koutou katoa.


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