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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 3. 14th March 1973

Foreign Bases in New Zealand Wilkes Writes to P.M

Foreign Bases in New Zealand Wilkes Writes to P.M.

Dear Mr Kirk,

Drawing of an American flag

I am writing to you on behalf of the Committee Against Foreign Military Activities in New Zealand (Cafmanz), a body recently set up in Christchurch with the immediate objective of organising a campaign against American military facilities at Christchurch Airport. Cafmanz is largely composed of people who were active in the Omega debate of 1968-69 and is a continuation of the campaign against American military facilities at Wood-bourne and Mount John.

We have been encouraged by the strong attitude taken by the new Labour Government in Australia towards American military bases. Mr Barnard and Doctor Cairns are reported as saying that the Australian Labour Party is opposed to the presence of foreign bases over which Australians have no influence, and they have stated that the U.S. will have to share defence information from these bases or close them down.

We would like to see a similar statement made by the New Zealand Government, and we offer the following outline for a New Zealand policy on foreign military activities in New Zealand.

1) "Project Longbank" at Woodbourne Despite a party of journalists and students being shown through this installation in January 1971 there has never been any official explanation of just what function was served by Longbank, apart from the frequently repeated, almost meaningless statement that "aerospace disturbances" were being monitored.

In 1970 you stated (NZPA 11 Feb. 1970) that "when Labour became the Government it would satisfy itself on the justification for the (Longbank) detachment. If security required secrecy a Labour Government would observe this . . ."

Project Longbank will be terminated by May 1973. We would like to see the Labour Government find out from the USAF before that date exactly what Longbank is doing and why secrecy is necessary. Our own investigations conclude that secrecy was necessary not merely to safeguard technology but because the U.S. was spying on French and Chinese nuclear tests and utilising these tests to discover the effects of nuclear explosions on radar and radio propagation — a field of weaponry improvement the U.S. is otherwise prevented from experimenting in by the Partial Test Ban Treaty.

The N.Z.—U.S. agreement covering Longbank gives New Zealand the right to data from this installation, but no data has ever been made available as far as we can find out. We think that the DSIR Physics and Engineering Laboratory should have access to the accumulated Longbank data, particularly in the field of very low frequency radio propagation, a field in which the Laboratory has internationally acknowledged competence.

2) Mount John The USAF satellite tracking station was foisted upon the New Zealand public as a scientific research programme with non-military objectives. Our investigations, publicised at the time of the demonstration in March 1972, showed that Mount John is part of the "Space-track" system of the USAF Aerospace Defence Command which provides targeting data for antisatellite weapons with nuclear warheads. Our campaign has so far forced a) disclosure of the contents of the Mount John lease agreement, and b) severance of Canterbury University's association with the installation. We are now asking that, the Labour Government:
a)Publish details of the negotiations between the previous Government and the USAF which led to the Satellite Tracking Station being established. Such disclosures would enable the New Zeland public to ascertain whether the misrepresentation of Mount John's nature and function was due to the U.S. Air Force misleading the N.Z. Government or to the N.Z. Government misleading the people.
b)Request the USAF close down the Satellite Tracking Station or, if it can be shown that there is sufficient scientific justification for its continued existence, that it be operated by a non military agency, without military financing, and that the high security encrypted teleprinter links with the USAF aerospace Defence Command be severed. If America wishes to conduct scientific research at Mount John, we suggest that it be done by New Zealand institutions under contract to, say, NASA. NASA space facilities in Australia operate successfully under such an arrangement.

3) Harewood-Weedons We are very disturbed that America is carrying on a number of military activities at Harewood Airport and RNZAF base, Weedons under cover of the "Operation Deepfreeze" agreement between the NZ and US Government. We are currently concerned with three particular aspects of the Harewood-Weedons complex —

a) The USAF Military Airlift Command (MAC) Base at Harewood. Ostensibly this base exists to assist the US Navy's Operation Deepfreeze, flying Starlifters from Hawaii to Christchurch and on to Antarctica, but it is not covered by the Deepfreeze agreement and in fact MAC services an average of one aircraft movement per day right through the year in support of all sorts of military activities in the South Pacific area. This includes handling of logistical tasks for Mount John and Wood-bourne, while aircraft bound for American installations in Australia also pass through Christchurch. From time to time various military research projects, concerned with problems of radar, radio propagation, surveillance, underwater warfare and weapon development, are based at Christchurch.

MAC is not essential to support of Antarctic science. MAC operates under charter to Deepfreeze and there is no practical or legislative reasons why the charter could not be transferred to civilian operators. Panam has already made one charter flight to McMurdo and there are plenty of civilian operators in North America flying ski equipped Hercules. We ask that the New Zealand Government stops MAC flights on the US—NZ—Australia run immediately and that MAC flights to Antarctica cease before the next Deepfreeze season begins.

Drawing of an eagle with a halo holding arrows

b)The US Naval Communications Unit: Sometimes described as the "Voice of Deepfreeze" this unit also serves as a link in the US Defence Communications Network other places which, to quote the US Defence Department "operates as the main interconnecting communications system around the world and within the continent (and) which interlocks and provides for the exchange of communication traffic between those commanders at posts, camps and stations throughout the world . . ."

The unit at Harewood as a link in this network is responsible for maintaining high frequency voice, teletype and facsimile circuits with Hawaii and Canberra and probably other points, using eight transmitters including a very powerful (40 kilowatt) one which can be beamed in any direction. (New Zealand gets by with a 750 watt link between Scott Base and Wellington ). The receivers for this facility are located at Harewood, while the transmitters are located within RNZAF Weedons Base, behind gateways flanked with signs saying: "Prohibited Area : Official Secrets Act 1951".

We have copies of US Navy documents which refer to the existence of high security encrypting facilities at the communications Centre and to a military courier service carrying classified material between Hawaii and Christchurch. Such activities are inappropriate in a scientific research programme and we are asking that the NZ Government have them stopped. Civilians operate New Zealand radio links with Antarctica and there is no reason why the US should not do the same.

c) Operation Deepfreeze is basically a military exercise in polar warfare operations using "scientific support" as an excuse for cover. We have ample documentation for this statement based on statements by military spokesmen at US Senate and Congressional hearings and on semiofficial publications such as the US Naval Institution Proceedings. The military "Operation Deepfreeze" as distinct from the civilian "US Antarctic Research Program" thus constitutes a violation of the Antarctic Treaty which forbids all military activities including military manoeuvres, although allowing use of military personnel on scientific programmes.

We ask that the NZ Government, as a signatory to the Antarctic Treaty, raise this question at the next Treaty Consultative Meeting, as well as applying other forms of pressure on the US Government to abide by the Treaty.

We feel there is more than ample justification for the above policy on US Military activities in NZ. We are not pretending that the present range of installations is likely to attract nuclear attack. We are arguing that we have an international obligation not to harbour any portion of the gigantic US military machine that is currently causing such enormous devastation in many parts of the world.

Eliminating the American military presence in New Zealand will demonstrate to our potential trading partners in Asia and to the world at large our distaste for and rejection of
  • a military caste that performs My Lai massacres to "win the hearts and minds of the people"
  • A "Defence Department" so out of control that it is no longer responsible to the American people or to the American Congress.
  • an administration that conducts "peace negotiations" with B52 bombers
  • and a President whose electioneering methods are best exemplified by the Watergate Affair.

By allowing military bases on our soil we commit ourselves unavoidably even if unwittingly or unwillingly to future American military policies. More importantly, eliminating the American military presence in NZ is one small step towards restricting America's uncontrolled capability for waging global warfare on those who differ in political philosophy or oppose her economic domination.

Yours faithfully,

Owen Wilkes,

Chairman, Cafmanz