Salient. Victoria University Students Newspaper. Vol. 38, No. 2. March 11, 1975
This Land Our Land?
This Land Our Land?
Last January three farmers, three housewives, four teachers, three journalists, a pensioner and a few dozen other 'average New Zealanders' joined together to educate themselves and others on the alarming extent of foreign control in New Zealand. Their method was a bus tour around the South Island which aimed to visit many of the most blatant and newsworthy examples of foreign control in the country. This was coupled with a concentrated programme of doorknocking and public meetings in many of the towns they passed through. The event was called the 'South Island Resistance Ride 1975.'
'It would be impossible for everyone in New Zealand to do a normal day's work without unknowingly and unwittingly exporting millions of dollars into foreign hands and thus further relinquishing what little control we have over our own economy.'
It isn't hard to get the feeling in New Zealand that our country is increasingly becoming a South Pacific pawn in the huge international game of economic chess. A visit to thousands of acres of ravaged West Coast Beech forest would confirm this feeling in most people. The essence of foreign control in New Zealand is simple. New Zealand is an exploitable pawn in an exploitative western world. We are, in not so many subtle ways and forms being controlled and dominated by the foreign decision making of overseas concerns who hold little interest in the long term welfare of this country. New Zealand, in simple terms, does not control New Zealand. When a New Zealand consumer buys toothpaste, breakfast cereal, or instant coffee, uses a glass tumbler, an electric jug or watches TV, he should be aware that every one of these items is more than likely a product of a foreign owned firm. It would be impossible for everyone in New Zealand to do a normal days work without unknowingly and unwittingly exporting millions of dollars into foreign hands and thus further relinquishing what little control we have over our own economy.
A good number of New Zealanders are not apolitical. We expect, in what we are led to believe is a democracy, that we have the power and the right to shape the destiny of the country we live in. But unless the people of New Zealand can recapture ownership of their country's productive means into their own hands, our power to shape the future development of this country will remain nebulous. Right now the country is being shaped by the Rockefellers in the USA, Mitsui and other ex-zabatsu groups in Japan, and other powerful monopolies throughout the western world.
Perhaps the most insidious example of New Zealand's pawn status is the presence of US military bases in this country. The stark bias of this becomes obvious if one, perhaps, compares two maps, one of the US and one of New Zealand, and marks in the number of foreign military bases in each country. New Zealand would be marked in half a dozen instances. The US map would remain unmarked.
The Labour Party 'policy definition' of a foreign owned company in New Zealand, is one which has over 25% ownership based overseas. By this definition few of the large profitable companies in New Zealand are New Zealand owned. New Zealand workers may make the goods but all decisions are made by the foreign directorship of that company and all profits return to the same. Economic sources confirm that as much as 30% of New Zealand's total finances disappear overseas. New Zealand appears, superficially, as a very useful middle man for overseas manufacturers. But ultimately, in the area of our own development we will realise the pawn status that is intended for us by the powers that finance and control us.
New Zealand is not beyond financing itself. If foreign ownership in every way or form was phased out of the New Zealand economy the money that would cease to sieve out of our national circulation to overseas firms would provide a considerable foundation of capital for development of New Zealand by New Zealanders.
On the Resistance Ride
The South Island Resistance Ride began in Christchurch . . .
On the eve of the Resistance Ride, all participants and many supporters gathered in the Christchurch Trades Hall. Owen Wilkes, veteran protester against US military bases in New Zealand spoke about some beliefs central to the Campaign Against Foreign Control in New Zealand. Client governments, he said, look after US interests all round the world. The reality of Mt John, he also said, is that it is not only a tracking station but exists to enable US orbital warfare. Wolfgang Rosenberg stressed the need to extend awareness of foreign control in New Zealand to awareness of private control. Not only should industry in New Zealand be New Zealand owned but owned co-operatively or by government.
The next morning we were on the road....
On the first day the Resistance Ride staged a brief protest at Harewood, against US military activity there. Harewood contains what is known as a US operation Deepfreeze base, a military terminal for flights to Antarctica by Military Airlift Command and Navy aircraft. Also at Harewood is the US Naval Communication Unit. Superficially this exists to maintain radio links with Antarctica. It is actually a part of the Worldwide Defence Communication System.
'Owen Wilkes had talked to us about 'client' governments. Soon we began to think about 'client' police forces.'
On the day that the Resistance Ride visited Harewood some roads were prohibited to us and dozens of police were standing by to make sure we kept to previously designated areas of the airport. This first day of intensive police harassment set the norm for the next two weeks. A mobile police van followed us constantly and police contingents were always in close proximity wherever we were in the South Island. No-one was flattered by the police escort. It tended to alienate us from many of the people in towns we passed through. At Cromwell we were staggered to read police notices in local papers warning the townspeople of our intended arrival. Owen Wilkes had talked to us about 'client' governments. Soon we began to think about 'client' police forces.
Mt John was one of the publicity highlights of the Resistance Ride. Protestors, cameramen and journalists met at the bottom of Mt John. This was as far as we could go. There is no doubt about the military nature of Mt John. It exists officially is a satellite tracking station. Briefly however it is necessary for the USAF who operates the tracking station to know friendly satellites from enemy satellites and it is for this deeper purpose Mt John operates.
Contact with as many of the public as possible began on the first day of the ride by means of doorknocking, leafletting and petitioning. As much information as was disseminated amonst the public was also gleaned in return, from local populations. In Twizel, many Resistance Riders discovered that Ministry of Works towns were unlike any other New Zealand towns they had known or lived in. Many residents talked to us of Twizel's unusual aspects. Like all Ministry of Works towns, Twizel has a Project Engineer who has authority over almost all aspects of the town's social and physical makeup. In Twizel some of the residents had unlovingly nicknamed their Project Engineer 'God'. The Resistance Ride had decided to visit Twizel in conjunction with the Waitaki Power Scheme because of the obvious connection between this and power-intensive foreign owned industries such as Comalco. The Waitaki Power Scheme is a mammoth development Lake Pukaki is to be raised 110 feet, which will treble its storage capacity and when finished will hold three times the volume of water as Wellington Harbour.
From Waitaki we moved on to the Clutha Valley where the sun shone warmly for the first time since Christchurch. Camping in the Clutha Valley was a moving experience for many Resistance Riders. We camped at Lowburn at a spot which will be drowned under 60 feet of water by the Clutha hydro scheme Even the tallest poplars would be submerged, we were told. Most of us had the belief that talks about this scheme were still in progress but even as we pitched our tents we could hear hydro detonators in the beautiful Kawarau Gorge sounding out the inevitability of the scheme. A petition was composed and printed on our portable Gestetner, to be circulated in Cromwell. Most residents seemed to have accepted the inevitability of the proposed hydro scheme but given the choice two thirds would have opted for the smaller 570 ft dam rather than the greater 640 which was originally proposed. The Clutha 640 scheme would flood a huge area of extremely fertile land and create a lake 30 miles long up the valley towards Wanaka. The business area of Cromwell will be irreparably affected by either of the 570 or 640 dam proposals. Some residents in page break of the 570 scheme told us that the Ministry of Works had threatened not to rebuild Cromwell's business area unless Cromwell accepted the larger 640 dam as a fait accompli.
'Like all Ministry of Works' towns, Twizel has a Project Engineer who has authority over almost all aspects of the town's social and physical make-up.'
New Zealanders are being told that this is the last hydro scheme to drown land and disrupt family and property. But already there are schemes to dam the Buller. This would not entail human disruption but is another ecological disruption that should not go without adequate planning if it is to go ahead at all.
Visiting the Comalco aluminium smelter at Tiwai. Point near Bluff gave many Resistance Riders serious doubts as to the validity of our mammoth power schemes. When Comalco is producing to full capacity next year it will be devouring one fifth of all New Zealand's hydro electric power. The first proposed dam on the Clutha, we learned, would provide just enough megawattage to run the now vetoed aluminium smelter at Aramoana, Dunedin. These type of power intensive industries provide very few employment opportunities in relation to the amount of power used. Comalco is paying a quarter of the price for its unlimited supply of electricity that the average New Zealand consumer is paying for a limited supply. Last year it was established that Comalco drew a considerable amount of electric power off the national grid. This meant that the average New Zealand consumer subsidised Comalco last year by eleven million dollars. It must also be remembered that Comalco is first and foremost a foreign owned and operated company, consisting of both American and Australian interests.
When we were doorknocking, many New Zealanders told Resistance Riders they doubted New Zealand had the capital to develop itself. Facts do not favour these doubts. The New Zealand government has spent almost twice as much as Comalco in helping to establish the aluminium smelter at Tiwai Point. Costs incurred by the New Zealand government for the Manapouri hydro scheme, transmission lines and a highway from Manapouri to Bluff come to 170 million dollars. Despite the Save Manapouri campaign, Manapouri has become, by official contract, virtually a company lake. It is frightening to realise that governments can sell water rights as they have done in the cases of both Manapouri and Te Anau to big business concerns-and not even New Zealand concerns at that! Many Invercargill people felt that because Comalco employed 750 men at the smelter, Comalco was a desirable asset to the city. But Invercargill remains a town with one of the highest rates of unemployment in New Zealand. Further, 750 jobs are few when the New Zealand government was originally led to believe the aluminium smelter would create as many as 10,000 jobs! A protest by Resistance Riders at the gates of Comalco received sympathetic and accurate coverage in the Southland Times. Pete Lusk, one of the organisers of the Resistance Ride, was headlined with his words 'We are face to face with the enemy.' Resistance Riders weaved their way across a mile of Tiwai Point tussock land to get to a slag heap adjacent to the smelter. The access road had been closed to us, as had been the smelter. Police and a number of Comalco officials attempted to prevent us from making a close inspection of the enormous foul-smelling slag pile, but we were on Crown land and could not be legally deterred. The slag pile was situated about 20 yards from the beach where liquid samples were taken for analysis from an exposed drain. It was tentatively suggested that the slag pile is largely potassium cyanide and that poisons are leached by the rain into a pipe and out to sea. Recently Foveaux Strait oysters have been found to contain a cyanide content of seven parts per million. The World Health Organisation has cited three parts per million as an excessively dangerous cyanide content.
'When Comalco is producing at full capacity next year it will be devouring one fifth of all New Zealand's hydro electric power . . . Comalco is paying a quarter of the price for its unlimited supply of electricity.'
It is startling to know that Hugh Watt once said he wanted to go down in history for his success in bringing Comalco to New Zealand. Professor Cowan, Dean of Economics at Otago University has said: 'The Comalco agreement will go down in history as one of New Zealand's worst economic blunders.'
Lake Manapouri was the real price New Zealand paid for Comalco. When the Resistance Ride visited the lake it looked unusually muddy. We were told this had happened since the Mararora River has been diverted to flow back into Manapouri as part of the hydro scheme (The Mararora Control structure has reduced the flow of the Waiau River from 12000 cu/secs to 1000 cu/secs to enable an adequate supply of water for the tail race tunnel. We noticed oxygen weed from this silty river only a few feet away in the murky waters of what was once known as New Zealand's most crystalline lake. No legislation exists to prevent our lakes from being irreparably tampered with in this manner. A group of Lake Manapouri Guardians have been appointed by government but without the support of effective protective legislation such groups have little real power.
The West Coast was the last major area the Resistance Ride visited. After camping under the Haast bridge we motored up to Blackball. To reach Blackball was a coming home for some members of the Resistance Ride. At least half a dozen members of the Ride were 'Coasters' including Pete Lusk and Owen Wilkes. We were in well known territory. The main examples of foreign control on the West Coast to be visited by the Resistance Ride were the beech forests and the Mt Davy coalfield. It is not too strong to suggest that the beech forest scheme is a forestry scheme by Japanese industry for Japanese industry. Also, the Japanese mining corporation Ataka have almost exclusive mining rights over the extnesive Mt Davy coalfield. Resistance Riders took an excursion into the hills to learn about the beech forest schemes first hand. The beech forest management schemes we discovered are management schemes in name only. What is entailed in reality is a burning of the beech after a few choice trees have been milled. Any regeneration is also burned or chemically destroyed with defoliants similar to those used by the US military in Vietnam. Following this wasteful ravaging, exotic pines are usually planted. It is a cunning public relations plot to talk of pine 'forests' in New Zealand. Our exotic pine forests are 'plantations' and should be known as such. High on a spur overlooking thousands of acres of beech designated for conversion to pine we uprooted a few newly planted exotics and replanted red beech seedlings in their place. This was a morale booster and a ceremonial symbol of our protest. It must be remembered that the beech schemes will provide paper for a use and throw away economy. Now that so little native forest remains in New Zealand it is an appropriate time to be aware of the enormous amount of throw away, unnecessary, consumer packaging that necessitates huge 'forestry' schemes. Many West Coasters saw the beech schemes in terms of job opportunities. But the mammoth size of these schemes, and the nebulous guarantee of any long term benefit to New Zealand owing to the foreign owned nature of the schemes should make government very hesitant to endorse them.
'.....the beech forest scheme is a forestry scheme by Japanese industry for Japanese industry.'
A real ideological alternative to the problem of small town employment opportunities is undoubtedly the policy of decentralisation. The Labour government claims to hold such a policy but only token gestures of decentralisation have typified a Labour government policy that could be a vital alternative to ailing development in regional areas. It is undesirable for foreign owned corporations to provide the jobs that our own government should he providing for the people of Invercargill. Westport and similar towns.
The Resistance Ride was finally closed in Nelson with an en-masse assault on two mammoth piles of beech and pine, chips which were waiting to be shipped to Japan.
A North Island Resistance Ride?
The success of the South Island Resistance Ride has insured the probability of a North Island Resistance Ride in January 1976. A public meeting on the topic of foreign control in New Zealand will be held in Wellington early in April.
It is not too late to oppose foreign control if it is opposed now. The Aramoana smelter was successfully opposed. The people of New Zealand need only to be aware and half the victory is won.
Anyone who is interested in contacting the Campaign Against Foreign Control in New Zealand should write to P O Box 2258 Christchurch. Any Wellingtonian interested in our Wellington group should contact Christine Gillespie, 128 Campbell Street, Karori.