Stop Rocket Lab’s Militarisation of Space

On Monday the 21st of June, 2021, winter solstice at poupoutanga o te rā/ midday, around 30 peace activists, supporters of demilitarisation, and mana whenua of Māhia gathered outside Rocket Lab’s Auckland headquarters.

Auckland Peace Action and peace veterans from the Nuclear Free movement organised the event in Auckland, demanding an immediate halt to Rocket Lab’s launches of surveillance and military satellites from New Zealand, protesting against Rocket Lab’s involvement in the militarisation of Space. Simultaneously there was a peace gathering in Nelson.

Kaumatua and Co-president of First Union Syd Keepa opened the event with a mihi whakatau, and spoke of it being Matariki, the importance of preventing space junk and the pollution of the night sky.

Photo: Jos Wheeler

We were honoured with the presence of peace veteran kuia Pauline Tangiora and some wāhine of Rongomaiwahine, Māhia, who came to Auckland for the protest. Pauline Tangiora spoke at the protest saying “your children will be affected by what youre doing today”. She raised the issue of the violation of the pacific ocean by military activities. To Auckland Peace Action she talked about the need for more young people to get involved in peace work and was encouraging about the progress of the campaign.

Photo: Jos Wheeler
Photo: Jos Wheeler

Teanau Tuiono is a longstanding peace activist and Member of Parliament for the Green Party. He paid recognition to Māhia mana whenua, who he had visited earlier this year to hear their concerns and about what they determine should happen. At the protest MP Teanau Tuiono announced he is introducing a Members Bill which would “amend the Outer Space and High altitude Activities Act and prohibit the launching of military hardware into space from Aotearoa New Zealand.

Photo: Jos Wheeler

“Currently within that act the Minister has the veto powers to veto things which are against the national interests. Our problem is that the Minister has not vetoed anything to do with the launch of military payloads.” He went on to say that he understands that there have been at least 13 military payload which have gone up into space – “that’s how wide the octopus of the American military system is.”

“Gunsmoke J was launched in March which was for the ‘U.S. Space Military and Defense Command’ and another one which was called ‘Brids of a Feather’ for the ‘U.S. National Reconnaissance Office’, so a combination of different aspects that can help the U.S. military.”

Photo: Jos Wheeler

Teanau Tuiono emphasised the need for New Zealand to decide on our own international policy “Its really important that we actually take hold of our own national responsibilties and commitment to peace, cos what happens when you privatise that stuff, which is what’s actually happening here, is Rocket Lab has managed to circumvent our international obligations”.

Teanau said that when he had the honour and privilege to meet with mana whenua at Māhia, there was a large turn out to discuss this issue “the wharekai was full”. He heard they have had restricted access to their whenua where the launch site is, there is concern about the environmental impact from the launches on te taiao, especially te moana, and reiterated Syd Keepa’s concern about space debris and night sky pollution.

Photo: Jos Wheeler

It was special to hear from peace elder Maire Leadbeater who recounted the successes of the peace movement in the past- including achieving Nuclear Free status – which Rocket Lab’s launches jeopardise. She said that, the more we learn about what Rocket Lab are doing, it is clearer and clearer that “Rocket Lab is effectively a base, a U.S. base, with the ownership not in New Zealand” She went on to say Rocket Lab “has no clear accountability to us, we call upon the New Zealand to explain to us how they approved payloads going into space like the launch of Gunsmoke J, which is about improving the targeting of weapons, including potentially nuclear weapons”.

Speakers included Mike Treen of Unite union, who spoke about those who really profit from these militarisation enterprises- those who constitute the “one percent” the elite wealthy who do not care about workers rights or life on Earth, and use military ventures maintain their wealth and power.

Former Minister for Disamourment Matt Robson spoke about the need for New Zealand to determine it’s own foreign policy, reitterating the concerns that a private company, acting in the interests of the U.S. military and being payed to launch rockets for their military and surveillance satellites.

Eliana Darroch from Auckland Peace Action said that it its wrong that Rocket Lab is putting Māhia on the map as a military target, by using that wāhi as a military launch pad. She said that these satellites are not just the milarisation of Space, but they have real world consequences in their use on Earth, with precision targeting technology – they would be used to bomb and target people in conflict overseas. “By allowing these launches from New Zealand, we are complicit in the U.S. military’s potential future wars.”

Photo: Jos Wheeler

We are grateful to the live musicians Sasha and Gavin, who played beautiful songs at the event.

Auckland Peace Action acknowledge Ngāti Whātua whose whenua Monday’s protest against Rocket Lab occurred on. We respect and support tino rangatiratanga of mana whenua in Tāmaki Makaurau/ Auckland, of mana whenua in Māhia, and all iwi and hapū in Aotearoa. We are opposing Rocket Lab in support of the tino rangatiratanga of mana whenua, to determine what happens on their whenua and in the night sky, to protect te taiao (environment), and prevent future war from these military satellites which Rocket Lab launches.

Photo: Jos Wheeler

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