Kapiti will be represented on Saturday (20 July) at the 40th anniversary of New Zealand’s epic naval protest against French nuclear testing over Mururoa atoll in the South Pacific.
When France defied an International Court of Justice ruling to stop testing in 1973, Prime Minister Norman Kirk sent two frigates on separate month-long voyages as ‘silent witnesses with the power to bring alive the conscience of the world.’
Now former Regional Councillor — and foreign correspondent — Chris Turver, of Te Horo, will recall the occasion at a reunion in Tauranga.
Chris was a New Zealand Press Association reporter on board HMNZS Canterbury. With a fellow NZPA reporter on HMNZS Otago, he reported to the world on the build-up and detonation of France’s 30th and 31st atmospheric nuclear tests.
The following year, world opinion forced France to shift its Mururoa nuclear programme underground.
The peaceful protest voyages were later described as highly-effective modern-day gunboat diplomacy, marking the start of New Zealand’s anti-nuclear stance and opening the door for the eventual declaration of a nuclear-free South Pacific.
Peter Mitchell, president of the Mururoa Veterans Society, who is organising the reunion in Tauranga, says it will be a chance to recognise an outstanding achievement.
“Those epic voyages eventually led to a complete stop to all nuclear testing in the Pacific and that’s a legacy that our sailors and all New Zealanders can be proud of.”
Special guests at the reunion will include Noeline Colman, widow of former Cabinet Minister Fraser Colman who was sent by the government to reinforce the seriousness of New Zealand’s opposition to French testing.