Peace Actions Halt New Zealand Arms Expo

October 2nd, 2019 - by Nicholas Pointon / RNZ & Thomas March /

Defence Industry Forum Canned over Protester Concerns

Nicholas Pointon / RNZ

NEW ZEALAND (October 1, 2019) — A controversial defence industry forum will not go ahead this year partly because of what organisers are calling aggressive protesters.

The Defence Industry Association’s event has been the focus of demonstrations from groups who say it’s a weapons expo.

At last year’s forum in Palmerston North people were arrested for assaulting the police, and eight others were arrested for disruption.

The association chairperson, Andrew Ford, said the reasons for this year’s cancellation includes wanting to protect delegates from aggressive protesters, the cost of the forum and the success they have had with smaller, more targeted forums.

Mr Ford said the association will attend the Avalon Airshow in Melbourne, and the Pacific 2019 International Maritime Exposition in Sydney, instead of hosting the forum.

Protest groups have said they are “thrilled” to learn the forum is not going ahead with what it calls a “weapons expo” a claim which the NZDIA has previously refuted.

In 2015, RNZ reported that weapons were on display at the event, which was sponsored by weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

Auckland Peace Action group have regularly protested NZDIA events in the past.

The group’s spokesperson, Valerie Morse, said Auckland Peace Action protested these events because they are directly opposed to the weapons trade.

“We think it is absolutely abhorrent that people profit from war and the mass murder of people.”

She said she believed that the NZDIA had cancelled the event due to public pressure.

“In terms of the event here in New Zealand, I think, undoubtedly, the event is not being held because protests and public opposition has been so strong and so effective, that they no longer think a large scale gathering like this is is tenable.

“They have been doing this [event] for the past 20 years. So it isn’t as if they all of a sudden decided that it was a bad idea. What happened was that actually the community has become educated about what is going on.”

When asked about how Peace Action protests events, Ms Morse said it took an approach of non violence. She said she did not endorse the actions of the two people who assaulted police officers at a protest in Palmerston North last year.

However, she said that the police have a very low tolerance of what may be considered assault against them.

“In the course of a protest, many people will know that the charge of assault to police is a very low level charge that can often happen in terms of somebody just simply touching a police officer.

“I’m not aware of the specifics around those cases. But I think that they were very, very minor instances in the kind of the heat of the moment. And somebody might have inadvertently touched a police officer. So I think that’s that’s probably what happened.”

Ms Morse said while it was a victory for the event not to go ahead, she believed more work needed to be done.

“Now I will be the first to admit that this is not the end of the military industrial complex. We have not defeated the war machine and the New Zealand government is spending more money than ever before, on the military and on buying new weapons.”

Police and protesters clash at defense forum. (Photo: Radio New Zealand)

Defense Forum Abandons Military Expo as ‘Aggressive Protesters’ Claim Success 

Thomas March /

NEW ZEALAND (September 30, 2019) — A controversial military expo has been scrapped by organisers and protesters are claiming success in shutting down the war industry.  The New Zealand Defence Industry Association (NZDIA) has decided not to hold a forum in 2019, after years of peace groups disrupting the “weapons expo”.

Ten protesters were arrested outside the event in Palmerston North in 2018, and 14 were arrested the year before at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium.  NZDIA chairman Andrew Ford said the event was not planned for 2019 for numerous reasons, including “the safety of delegates, guests and community in the face of aggressive protest action”.

Ford said other industry events held in Australia this year, and a preference for smaller forums meant the annual event was not required.

Auckland Peace Action and Organise Aotearoa both issued statements celebrating the end of the forum.  Green Party defence spokeswoman Golriz Ghahraman​, who spoke at the 2018 protest, said the forum was against the values of New Zealand.  “We should be using our rise in diplomatic prowess to speak to peace . . . . To then be hosting essentially a sale expo for these weapons companies, is perverse.

“Especially now we have had Christchurch [terror attacks] happen, and we know that much of the community affected by that is actually people escaping from war.”  ​Ghahraman said the companies which attended the forum sold arms, such as autonomous weapons, the international community was trying to ban.  “Whilst they might not be bringing that particular kind of weapon here . . . that’s who we’re supporting.” 

The forum, sponsored in 2017 by nuclear weapons and arms giant Lockheed Martin, has been attended by the Ministry of Defence, New Zealand Defence Force and other government agencies responsible for national security.

Local government leaders have expressed their distaste for the event in response to protest action.

After the Christchurch terror attack in March, Palmerston North Mayor Grant Smith said the council would likely distance itself from events related to guns and armaments.  In 2017 Wellington Mayor Justin Lester said  the forum was “not an appropriate event for a civic venue.”

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(Oct 2, 2019) — The annual Weapons Expo has been brought to an end by Peace Action groups across the country. The non-violent direct action tactics we have used have been effective at shutting this thing down for the past four years. Now the NZ Defence Industry Association has realised the futility of continuing to host this weapons show against the massive wave of public opposition and disgust at their business of war.

They have admitted it will not take place in 2019. The Weapons Expo organisers have done everything to try to camouflage what they are doing to make it respectable, but when Lockheed Martin is the principal sponsor and dozens of world’s biggest arms dealers show up tocash in on lucrative military contracts, it is pretty hard to hide the reality of shameless war profiteering.

There is absolutely no social license for war or weapons dealers in Aotearoa. People simply do not want this country to be a base for war-making or war profiteering. While the Peace Action groups have been driving this, we did not do it alone. It has taken the work of thousands of people over the years — people who have put themselves on the front lines of our blockades to get in the way of these arms dealers and stop them. This has not come without a cost; many people suffered injuries at the hands of police and dozens of illegal arrests were made.

We are happy that this abhorrent event will not continue in Aotearoa. However, our work is not complete. The military budget has increased exponentially with massive new arms contracts for aircraft.

This is money that is being stolen from our communities — communities that are desperately in need of housing, health care, education and ecological care. Every dollar we spend on armaments and military bases is money taken from our children. We are sacrificing their future to keep an army and weapons of war at the ready. It is grotesque.

We would like to pay special tribute to the following organisations for their unwavering support of our work to shut down the Weapons Expo. We did it! Pacific Panther Network People Against Prisons Aotearoa Organise Aotearoa Church in Progress MCC Auckland Action Against Poverty Student Housing Action Group – SHAG UOA Save Our Homes Aotearoa Quaker Peace & ServiceSociety of Friends Pax Christi Aotearoa Racial Equity Aotearoa Asians Supporting Tino Rangatiratanga Health Sector Workers Network of Aotearoa / New Zealand NZ Palestine Solidarity Network Palestine Human Rights Campaign Waikato West Papua Action Auckland People of Parihaka Pā Oil Free Wellington Whanganui Positive Activists Christchurch Progressive Network Anti-Bases Campaign KAVA CLUB World Beyond War Tāmaki Makaurau Anarchists Berrigan House Catholic Workers Grannies for Peace Climate Justice Taranaki GPJA- Global Peace and Justice Auckland Non-Muggles Against War Peace Action Waiheke 350 Aotearoa Splice The Peace Place WarKillsChildren International Socialist Organisation UoA Unite Union First Union Waikato Left Network Peace Action Manawatū Peace Action Wellington

Auckland Peace Action and a myriad of union members, climate activists, environmentalists, & faith-based activists.