No Nukes Is Good Nukes? Ten Years after, Kiwis Soften Stance New Zealand Mulls Price of Its Self-Imposed Ban as Desire for 'Security' Grows

Article excerpt

As if to signal the temperature of the occasion, an Antarctic storm descended on New Zealand as well-wishers gathered here last week to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the country's antinuclear legislation.

Inside a downtown church, a small crowd shivered while a keynote speaker solemnly cut a large birthday cake. For a national party, it was a somber affair.

Gone was much of the public hoopla of a decade ago, when New Zealand passed the world's first statute preventing nuclear-armed and nuclear-powered ships from visiting its ports. Also missing were the obligatory plaudits from government officials whose enthusiasm for the legislation might once have been taken for granted. New Zealand is learning that leading the world in the ways of peace can be a tough call when the rest of the world isn't convinced. "We were supposed to be the nation that others would follow, but it didn't turn out like that, did it?" says John Driesenaar, a local cabdriver. "I can't see that the legislation has really got us anywhere." While other New Zealanders wonder what the policy has actually achieved - other than a certain sense of national self-satisfaction - defense officials here are looking for ways to improve this small South Pacific nation's military relations with the outside world. Although it soured alliances with many Western nations, the Nuclear-Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act took the heaviest toll on relations between Wellington and Washington, which suspended New Zealand from the Pacific Security Treaty, or the ANZUS Pact, between itself, Australia, and New Zealand. In addition, the US stopped all joint exercises, reduced personnel exchanges, and cut the flow of intelligence data down to, in the bemused words of one former premier, an airmailed copy of Time each week. According to a nationwide poll conducted late last month, nearly three-quarters of those under 30 - a category that once constituted the legislation's most popular support - say that effective security arrangements are very important for the country. The figure is up from 56 percent less than a year ago. In an interview with the Monitor, New Zealand Defense Minister Paul East suggested that such findings meant the time was right to look at new ways of restoring the country's military relationship with the United States. "My view is that the celebrations were in fact more of a commemoration. …