Nuclear-free zones worked for Kiwis

Local governments can affect change and make meaningful global decisions

Re: Oil protest a slippery slope for cities (B.C. Views, Oct. 7).

Tom Fletcher took a snide swipe at local politicians and municipal councils that declared their jurisdictions to be nuclear weapons-free zones. “Did they really think we’re that stupid?” he asks.

Fletcher should know better than to denigrate the power of grassroots democracy and nowhere is it more powerful than at the local level. This was unquestionably demonstrated in New Zealand where, in the early 1980s, a dictatorial conservative prime minister named Rob Muldoon ignored the overwhelming public opinion that New Zealand should not host nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed foreign warships.

Ignoring the ever-louder public protest, Muldoon continued to invite U.S. warships to visit New Zealand harbours and used his majority National government to run rough-shod over the will of the people.

Kiwis turned to their local governments. Municipality after municipality voted to become nuclear free and they posted signs on their municipal boundaries.

Labour Party leader David Lange was no fool. He promised that if his party became the government, he would ban all nuclear-equipped warships from New Zealand waters.

In 1984 Labour swept into power in a landslide and followed through on Lange’s promise. New Zealand is a small peaceful country in the South Pacific but Kiwis stood up against the superpower bully tactics of Ronald Reagan and the U.S. military.

New Zealand took a beating economically but stood by its principle of opposing Cold War super-power nuclear alliances. To this day New Zealand proudly remains nuclear-free and an example to the world. The strategy may have been less successful in B.C. but there is nothing stupid about the effort nor the intent of the passionate British Columbians who tried.

Chris Conway

Invermere