Nash undermines our nuclear free New Zealand | The Jackal

25 Jun 2021

Nash undermines our nuclear free New Zealand

When New Zealand first became nuclear free in 1984, under Labour Prime Minister David Lange, it ushered in a time where almost anything seemed achievable. Not only was our young country finally taking a stand against nuclear proliferation, which has caused untold misery around the world, we were also forging a path away from our old and new imperial masters, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

However some of that hard work and grass roots activism looks set to be undone by a small private US owned company called Rocket Lab, which has been launching satellites from New Zealand that are carrying US Military systems with the potential to help nuclear weapons acquire their targets.

Today, Newshub reported:

Minister in charge of space launches, Stuart Nash, dismisses 'confused' Greens Party's Rocket Lab fears

The minister who signs off on space launches has dismissed the Green Party's fears that Rocket Lab is launching potentially dangerous military hardware into space. 

"I think they're slightly confused about what Rocket Lab is doing," Regional Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash told Newshub after Green MP Teanau Tuiono submitted a Member's Bill to change the law governing space launches. 


I can smell the uranium on Nash’s breath from here.


But Nash told Newshub the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) deep dives into each space launch application before it goes to him for approval. Nash then ensures the launch aligns with New Zealand's interests.

"The piece of legislation that governs what can and can't go up is very strict around this. It can't be outside of New Zealand's interests and there is a very robust process that MBIE undertakes before it presents anything to me to sign-off payloads that go into space," Nash said.

How exactly is it in our best interest to help the US Military launch systems that could be used for targeting nuclear weapons strikes? Aligning ourselves in this way with the only country in the world to have ever used nuclear bombs directly against civilians isn’t just in breach of our current legislation; it could detrimentally impact on New Zealand's relationship with our other trading partners as well.

"The US Army possibly has one of the largest R&D [research and development] budgets in the world. It is incredibly well-funded. Not everything it does is related to war. But again, if anything was to go up into space that contravened the legislation that governs what we can and can't do... it just does not happen.

This is an assurance that Nash cannot actually give.

Besides, there really isn’t any confusion when it comes to New Zealand’s nuclear free legislation. It strictly prohibits any Kiwi from helping other countries proliferate nuclear weapons. The nuclear free legislation also has the intention of stopping New Zealand from manufacturing any part of a nuclear weapon, which would obviously include its targeting systems.

There is no question that a part of the manufacturing process is installing military components onto satellites and shooting them into space...and if those systems have the potential to be used to acquire targets for nukes, then this is clearly prohibited against under our current laws.

Rocket Lab, a US-owned but New Zealand-based company estimated to be worth more than US$1.2 billion, has become a leader in a niche market of small rocket services provided by private companies.

A launch in March included a prototype satellite called Gunsmoke-J, which collects targeting data for US military operations. Nash allowed the launch to proceed, despite concerns it could help with nuclear weapons targeting, which could be in breach of the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act 1987. 

"The US military satellites launched by Rocket Lab can control activity such as communications with troops, surveillance and reconnaissance, intercepting information or spying, and targeting weapons, like drones, bombs, and also nuclear weapons," says Auckland Peace Action spokesperson Eliana Darroch. 

It’s a pity that the Minister responsible is intentionally relying on an ambiguous interpretation of the legislation in order to dismiss the Greens’ valid concerns.

However it's even more unfortunate that Nash is ignoring international laws as well. Because by helping Rocket Lab and the US Military to launch these weapons satellites into space, the Government is in breach of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which states:

Article I

Each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; and not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, or control over such weapons or explosive devices.


Article III

Each State Party to this Convention undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever, directly or indirectly, and not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any State, group of States or international organisations to manufacture or otherwise acquire any of the agents, toxins, weapons, equipment or means of delivery specified in Article I of the Convention.

This means that the USA isn’t allowed to get New Zealand to manufacture any system that might help any state, including itself, to control a nuclear weapon, either directly or indirectly. There really isn’t any grey area here and Nash is being disingenuous to say that there is.

Perhaps the Minister needs to be reminded of the similarities between this situation and the United States' neither confirm nor deny stance prior to our nuclear free legislation becoming law, which meant the Labour Government at the time had to effectively put an end to all US warships and submarines from visiting our shores.

Labour should show some consistency when it comes to nuclear issues by similarly banning these weapons targeting systems from being launched in New Zealand's supposed nuclear free skies.

There is no question that Nash should employ the same restrictions because New Zealand simply cannot rely on any assurances from a private company or the US Military when it comes to their weapons targeting systems. In fact it’s much more likely that some of these satellites are specifically designed to help the United States' Military acquire targets for its nuclear arsenal all around the world.

Nash thumbing his nose at our legislation and relying on the assurances of people with vested interests including one to undermine our nuclear free legislation is highly foolish, but especially so when you consider that China, and not the US, is currently our largest trading partner.

It should be clear to the Government that inaction over Rocket Lab's US Military contracts could potentially damage our future trade negotiations with other countries. But despite consecutive NZ Government's appearing to not care what most of our trading partners think, I'm sure that NZ helping the US to improve on its weapons targeting capabilities will be problematic when it comes time to sit down around the negotiating table.

Whether Stuart Nash considers these partnerships as important, or respects our nuclear free legislation, or David Lange's legacy for that matter, is yet to be seen. But if his actions to date are anything to go by, it appears that he really doesn't give a damn!