By Laurie Ross, New Zealand Nuclear Free Peacemakers, August 22, 2021
The protest outside Rocket Lab HQ Auckland at 12 Noon 21 June 2021 was to oppose the launches of US military payloads in Space. The event was organized by Laurie Ross of NZ Nuclear Free Peacemakers, supported by Auckland Peace Action and other Peace groups of New Zealand/Aotearoa, on the Winter Solstice, a time of honouring Matariki stars.
The ‘STOP Militarisation of Space’ demonstration featured leaders of the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone campaign of the 1980s, including Maire Leadbeater, former spokeswoman of CND and author of ‘Peace, Power and Politics’ plus Mike Treen of UNITE Union. Also Dr. Peter Wills of SANA (Scientists Against Nuclear Arms) from the Physics Dept. Auckland University and Matt Robson, a lawyer who is a former Minister for Disarmament. They highlighted the need for NZ to reaffirm its independent Defence and Foreign policy, not pander to US warfare orientation in the Pacific and in Space.
Other people opposed to Rocket Lab launches for the US military, came all the way from the Mahia launch pad, (100s of miles) to join the Auckland protest. It was a great honour that Rongomaiwahine (women for Peace) brought Maori Peace activist elder Pauline Tangiora. They are concerned about the adverse effects of rocket launches on the natural environment, as well as NZ involvement in US warfare.
Event Coordinator Ross, a Nuclear Free NZ veteran campaigner, currently works for the Peace Foundation International Affairs and Disarmament Committee. This group of recognized academics engages in high level correspondence with New Zealand government ministers on issues of Peace, Disarmament, Defence and Foreign Affairs policies.
It opposes the Rocket Lab corporation launching military payloads, including the ‘Gunsmoke-J’ satellite for the US Space Missile Defence Command from NZ in March 2021. This is for ‘warfare combat targeting’ on Earth and in Space which is contrary to NZ’s Peacemaking ethos in principle.
The NZ government states it will not authorize payloads ‘with the intended end use of harming, interfering with or destroying other spacecraft or systems on Earth’ according to the ‘Outer Space and High-altitude Activities Act’ (OSHAA) assessment criteria 2019. Therefore, NZ should not be assisting US warfare preparation in Space whose ‘end use’ will be for harming and killing.
OSHAA reinforces the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act 1987, so the government reassures the public that no nuclear weapons or systems would be approved. However, NZ is still supporting the US military whose doctrine is ‘First Strike’ use of nuclear weapons, spending billions of dollars on producing new nuclear and hypersonic weapons for US domination of Space warfare.
Rocket Lab is now a US owned company with a major investor Lockheed Martin-who is the biggest producer of conventional and nuclear weapons in the world. Therefore, the NZ government should uphold it’s higher values and national interest by refusing Space launches for US Military payloads.
Thus, it is imperative that the NZ Peace Movement convinces government to with hold approval for US military payloads . This was the position of Green Party MP Teanau Tuiono, who launched his Private Member’s Bill at the event (tabled at parliament that day). He calls for amendment of OSHAA Act to prohibit NZ launches of foreign military hardware into Space. Tuiono was the major media attraction at the Rocket Lab Protest which was the first ‘Space for Peace Aotearoa’ public event in Auckland.
Generally, the media glorifies Rocket Lab, the Space Industry and the financial wealth to be gained. It does not reveal that thousands of rockets will harm the ozone layer, that satellites become Space rubbish, that rockets use huge amounts of fossil fuels and produce massive Co2 emissions.
The media has not yet recognized the future problem of electromagnetic radiation blanketing the biosphere from the planned 40-80,000 satellites. The majority of New Zealanders are unaware of the multiple threats from the Space Industry. Michael Vaughan from ‘Safe Technology NZ’ began to explain this at the event, but the urgent focus was on stopping military use of the technology for warfare in Space.
Laurie Ross points out that this really requires an international agreement. She wants the New Zealand government to promote the UN Treaty for ‘Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space’. The PAROS Treaty has been advocated by the majority of states at the United Nations for years, but blocked by the US and Israel. PAROS would prohibit weapons technology and missile systems in Space in order to preserve Space for Peaceful purposes. Preparation for warfare in Space violates the United Nations and a ‘rules-based international order’ for peace and security of Humanity on Earth and in Space.
This approach is now being pursued by the United Nations Office for Disarmament, in the ‘Report of the Secretary General on reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours’ (A/76/77). The New Zealand Minister for Disarmament, Phil Twyford must be encouraged for NZ to champion this course of action.
Laurie Ross currently works with ‘Space for Peace Aotearoa’ an emerging collaboration of NZ Peace groups to STOP Militarisation of Space for Warfare. Also works with ‘World Beyond War’ and the ‘Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space’, ‘International Campaign for Abolition of Nuclear weapons.’