Rebelling by any means possible : New Zealand local government nuclear weapon free zones : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in History at Massey University
One hundred and five nuclear weapon free zones (NWFZ) covered the country by 1987. The zones were declared by local Councils and harbour boards, over 72% of New Zealanders lived in these zones. The percentage meant New Zealand could claim the world record for local NWFZs. I had no previous knowledge of these zones until I read an article by Larry Ross on the campaign. The article proclaimed local and national petitions, alongside local body declarations, demonstrated to the Government that the people wanted a Nuclear Free New Zealand.
Larry Ross, 'Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones total 64', New Zealand Monthly Review, November 1983, p. 9. The idea of declaring one's town nuclear free intrigued me, but I was instantly sceptical of the concept. I joined those who had previously scoffed at the notion that a Council could make such a stand against a nuclear armed state and it lead me to ponder what the nuclear free declarations meant. I quickly came to realise that the intention was not usually for the zones to be seen as a literal measure to prevent nuclear weapons from entering people's towns. Rather they were framed as a symbolic gesture and a political move to encourage states into action for nuclear disarmament. With no means of enforcement, I came to perceive that the process of developing the zones was more important than the final declaration. I believed the growth of zones would have contributed to a sense of legitimacy and momentum, yet I considered that the greater benefits of the NWFZs came from the process. The assumption was that the campaign would educate the public, shape public opinion and help strengthen the peace movement. My key question focused on looking at the processes which led to the local NWFZs being established and to ascertain what they meant in the wider context of the anti-nuclear movement. That process was examined through individual case studies, hoping to draw some conclusions on the importance of local nuclear free declarations.