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MIL OSI – Source: Green Party – Press Release/Statement

Headline: Week of peace?

Yesterday’s protest at the Defence Expo in Auckland was an important example of New Zealanders speaking out on an issue that many of us feel strongly about.

Auckland Peace Action is organising a Week of Peace from 13-20 November in Auckland in response to the defence industry conference, and the visit of warships for the 75th Navy Anniversary celebrations.

There are legitimate grounds for protest. Auckland should not be the host of a celebration of weaponry at a forum of 550 arms manufacturers and dealers. This expo is not in keeping with New Zealand’s deeply held views about the importance of peace, as well as Auckland’s status as a city of peace. Like many others, I was proud of our largest city’s declaration on the 25th anniversary of New Zealand as a nuclear-free nation.

We see a great deal of inconsistency in this defence conference and the way it is being run. The arms fair is sponsored by Lockheed Martin, one of the world’s largest armaments makers and a huge player in nuclear weapons infrastructure around the world.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand Superannuation Fund has determined that investment in Lockheed Martin is not consistent with its duty to uphold New Zealand’s international reputation. The Super Fund excludes the makers of weapons such as landmines, cluster bombs and nuclear weapons. Apparently, that’s not a problem for our defence industry.

Hosting this arms fair implies support for military activities that are currently making our world more dangerous, and leading to humanitarian suffering on a massive scale. The Green Party stands for peace. It is at the core of our charter. Peace is the best weapon we have in achieving personal security. It is a simple fact that New Zealanders are safest in a peaceful world.

Rather than spending billions of dollars on military equipment, we need a defence force that is fit for purpose. The Green Party has a longstanding belief that priority must be given to non-violent means of resolving conflict.  We support the NZDF to carry out core functions of global and regional conflict prevention and resolution (peacekeeping), and peace-making and peacebuilding.  Territorial search and rescue, disaster relief, and fisheries protection are also vital roles for our defence force.

While we don’t think that visits by any combat ships should encouraged, we’re pleased that visiting ships and helicopters are being put to better use as part of the disaster relief effort in Kaikoura. It is also good to see the frigates Auckland and Canterbury helping out with earthquake relief, but they would be far more effective if they were designed for that purpose.

In their deeply incoherent defence policy, the NZ Navy has awarded a $446 million contract to Lockheed Martin to upgrade New Zealand’s two frigates, Te Mana and Te Kaha – boats that the Government has already indicated that it plans to replace. We need to phase out these expensive ships and invest instead in multi-purpose vessels and patrol boats that are designed for useful, peace-promoting activities, like the disaster relief activities and maritime surveillance against illegal fishing and smuggling. This would release funding for serious issues facing our communities now, like affordable housing and under-funded schools and health care.

While billions are funneled to multinational arms manufacturers like Lockheed Martin, the real threats to New Zealand’s security come from climate change, denial of human rights and organised crime. It’s time to replace outdated notions of military security with peace and human security as our framework for the 21st century.