Waihopai Spybase Weekend, 30th January 2021

Guest blog post by Kerry Tankard.

Out to Waihopai base on Saturday for 10.30 am start. Clear fine day after a chilly morning for the campers.

Murray Horton MC’d, with short addresses by Teanau Tuiono (new Green MP), Stefan Browning (retired Green MP), Maire Leadbetter, Liz Remmerswaal, and a few locals making brief points. Someone made a quick hop over the front fence to plant a ceremonial placard in the paddock near the gate, bemusedly observed by Marlborough’s finest Police detail, who watched the entire show from a distance, without exchanging a word with anyone on the protest. (Their behaviour varies from year to year, but as the ABC members age through retirement, they seem to have come to a ‘hands-off’ attitude to the protesters.)

The assembled group then retreated to Blenheim, where a light lunch of DIY sandwiches was enjoyed, followed by an afternoon of talks.

First up was Ollie Neas, a young freelance investigative journalist who has been researching SpaceLab’s operations in NZ for the past two years. He’s about to be published in North & South Magazine, so I won’t say much about his talk, which was very detailed, except to say that SpaceLab is heavily contracted to the US Military & Intelligence agencies, delivering quantities of smaller Comms satellites & thus is no small part of keeping their forces overseas equipped to continue offensives in the Middle & Far East.

Nicky Hager drew the next section, fresh from Otaki Summer Camp involvement, and looking a little tired around the edges. He began by saying how much he’s enjoyed spending time with young activists, discussing ideas & strategies with them, then addressed his topic – an overview of the work of the Five Eyes Intelligence community, and how Waihopai assists that work.
There were many ‘first time’ attendees this year, so he adjusted his talk to give some background on the five nations (US, UK, Canada, Australia & NZ), the so-called Anglosphere, and the recently renewed calls from Britain to strengthen those relationships (in the wake of completely wrecking their former EU relationships via Brexit), in some vain attempt to return to the glory days of the British Empire.

He touched on the Ed Snowden revelations about Echelon & Five Eyes, and drew our attention to the recent US announcement of deployment of a US Naval Aircraft Carrier to the South China Sea area, along with two Australian amphibian frigates, in an escalating situation developing around Chinese expansion of interest in several islands in the South China Sea. NZ Navy is very coy about deployments on the MinDef website, but they appear to have acquired at least one amphibian frigate in the expanded defence budget windfall gained under former Minister Ron Marks.

New Green MP Teanau Tuiono rounded off the afternoon, giving a brief introduction to his background in Law, involvement in environmental and indigenous rights organisations, and teaching experiences, in his life before Parliament, leading into an outline of some of his aspirations for the next three years in his new roles.
He outlined some ways in which he could help peace activists raise questions to Ministers (for both oral and written answers). Which prompted Warren to advise us all that following on from the Royal Commission Report into the Christchurch Terror Attack, there would be legislative changes coming before Parliament soon, which it would be good to make submissions on.

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