Submission on the Counter-Terrorism Bill

From the Anti-Bases Campaign, Christchurch


8 April 2003

We would like to call to the attention of the Committee an aspect of the Counter-Terrorism Bill that is of particular relevance to our concerns about the American military presence at Christchurch International Airport.

We believe this bill is relevant to the potential for American military cargo aircraft, particularly in time of international crisis, to carry nuclear materials (including nuclear weapons) through Christchurch Airport in transit to United States military/intelligence bases in Australia and beyond. The aircraft are primarily C-141B Starlifters and C-5B Galaxys which carry the “neither confirm nor deny” (NCND) nuclear weapons policy.

With reference to the Bill, the relevant sections are: Sect 11(1) which makes reference to the “Nuclear Material Convention”, Sect 13C “Offences involving physical protection of nuclear material, and Schedule 2A which is the text of the “Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material”.

Within the text of the Nuclear Material Convention we call your attention to the statement in the Preamble, “Recognizing the importance of effective physical protection of nuclear material used for military purposes…”, Article 1c on “international nuclear transport”, and Article 4(5) which states, inter alia, “The State Party…shall identify and inform in advance States which the nuclear material is expected to transit…whose airports or seaports it is expected to enter.”

Article 4(5) appears to be of particular relevance to the transit of American military cargo aircraft through New Zealand under the NCND nuclear weapons policy. Starlifters and Galaxys are the primary mode of air transport of nuclear weaponry from the United States to its military bases overseas. There are many such bases and nuclear weapons are known to be stored at some of those bases. (We are not alleging that such storage exists at Christchurch Airport.)

We strongly support New Zealand’s implementing in our law, via the relevant provisions of the Counter-Terrorism Bill, the requirements of the Nuclear Material Convention to which we are a signatory. We consider that an important requirement of that Convention is that New Zealand be informed of any passage of nuclear material, including nuclear weapons, through our territory. We are a nuclear-weapons-free nation, protected by the Nuclear Free Zone Act of 1987. The Prime Minister must be “satisfied that the foreign military aircraft will not be carrying any nuclear explosive device when it lands in New Zealand” (Sect 10(2) of the 1987 Act).

We request the Select Committee to incorporate appropriate wording in the Counter-Terrorism Bill to make clear that aircraft transiting New Zealand under the NCND nuclear weapons policy would be in violation of provisions of New Zealand law and would contravene the letter and intent of the Nuclear Materials Convention. We would be happy to suggest relevant insertions to the Bill for these purposes.

We are also prepared to supply documentation in support of statements in this submission, including extensive flight data (provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) that makes a clear distinction between dedicated Antarctic support missions of American aircraft and the military-intelligence flights that transit Christchurch Airport in support of foreign American bases, including Pine Gap in Australia.

We request the opportunity to speak to this submission, in Christchurch or via video link if possible. We thank the Committee for the opportunity to comment on the Counter-Terrorism Bill.

Robert L. Leonard
For the Anti-Bases Campaign.