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Local nuclear-free zone campaigns supported nationally from a campaigner’s house

The previous Happenings Blog showed how the work by nuclear-free campaigners over several decades has come to be officially sanctioned by US President Obama with his Nuclear Security Summit.

Such campaigners have worked hard all around the world, and it would be very much appreciated if readers sent web links that describe or reflect on these efforts.

Larry Ross was a huge driving force behind the 1980s New Zealand wide Nuclear-Free Zone campaign. He initiated and helped to support much of this campaign, with the help of many hard-working volunteers, from his New Brighton home in Christchurch. There in 1981 he founded the New Zealand Nuclear-Free Zone Committee, which was morphed into the New Zealand Nuclear-Free Peacemaking association after the campaign succeeded and New Zealand’s nuclear-free zone legislation was passed in 1987.

To help celebrate Larry’s 80th birthday in  2007, an online “patchwork quilt” was compiled of contributions made directly by many of the participants in the campaign. This quilt captured many salient aspects of the history and flavor of the campaigning.

Extrapolations from that quilt, with links to the original website were made  for the original version of this village-connections blog in 2010. However, since then the original online material has been removed, along with much other valuable information, when a new owner took over that website. The new owner retained the site name, but filled it with entirely new content that had nothing to do with nuclear-free New Zealand.

So this blog has been re-edited, albeit without the actual links to the original, to include nonetheless the substance of the original details. The patchwork quilt included contributions from:

Laurie Ross, one of Larry’s daughters, who described how he came with “our family of six children to NZ from Canada in 1961 in order to work more effectively for nuclear disarmament [and] for New Zealand’s withdrawal from the Vietnam war.”

Jenny Lineham who lived around the corner from Larry and described his founding of a local peace group, and setting up national campaign headquarters at his home. From here she and many other enthusiastic volunteers put many, many hours over several years into highly effective work supporting the creation of local nuclear-free zones around the country.

A tribute by to Stan Hemsley who was by then, in 2010, deceased. Stan was an archetypal New Zealand peace campaigner who worked tirelessly at Larry’s home and on nuclear-free peace stalls, particularly in the Christchurch Square.

Jim  Costello from the remote Hari Hari and South Westland Peace Groups who described very colourfully how Larry’s “is a big hero to the Peaceniks who helped to make the Westland County Council Nuclear Weapon Free in the early 80’s and eventually no doubt this was a small factor in the country becoming Nuclear Free 20 years ago.

Dennis Small, a very highly informed and articulate, close and hard working colleague describes some salient features of the campaign, and mentioned a still accessible article by Larry (in the Pacific Ecologist, “On the Edge of the Nuclear Abyss: Why Aotearoa New Zealand must stay nuclear-free”PE, issue 13, Summer 2006/7 .

John Gallagher, another close colleague, describes how Larry Ross saw that nuclear free zone policy needed to be complemented by a comprehensive new approach to foreign policy based on international peace-making which Larry called “positive neutrality” (as distinct from an indifferent, isolationist neutrality).

So when the country passed nuclear-free legislation in 1987, its membership of the ANZUS alliance (Australia, New Zealand, United States) was suspended by the US. This gave New Zealand the focus and credentials to begin engaging in serious diplomatic peacemaking initiatives. These have included, especially, helping to bring the extremely bloody Bougainville civil war to an end, acting as a broker on the United Nations Security Council when New Zealand was on it from 1989 to 1990, and acting again as a broker between the United States North Korea over the latter’s nuclear development programme.

Now President Obama himself wants New Zealand to step up to take an active role in helping to improve global nuclear security. Larry had often said that the best way for New Zealand to be a true friend to the United States was not to follow it down confrontational pathways that pointed towards nuclear extinction. It made more sense, rather, to act independently, if necessary, to help it and those with whom it was at loggerheads to pull back from the nuclear brink. Something like this is now perhaps starting to come to fruition.

Your comments and links very welcome.


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