More on the Waihopai Anzac Ploughshares

the following article appeared in Tui Motu (Independent Catholic Monthly Magazine)


- Murray Horton

Murray Horton is the Organiser and spokesperson for the Anti-Bases Campaign.

Peter Murnane, in the May issue, did an excellent job of establishing that the Waihopai spy base in Marlborough is a terrorist base. Of course, Peter and two other members of the Anzac Ploughshares group have since turned words into action, symbolically closing the base by deflating one of its two domes, leaving the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) and the Government with egg on their faces.

The Anti-Bases Campaign has been calling for Waihopai’s closure for the 21 years since it was first announced. In the first decade we adopted similar tactics, with dozens of arrests, although without such a spectacular result (the closest we got was splattering a dome as the target of a bullshit throwing contest. The raw material was freely available locally - the winner is now a Protestant clergyman). For the past decade we have opted for non-arrestable actions, which are still high on visual impact and which get excellent public support and media coverage.

The Ploughshares action propelled the top secret base into the spotlight. There was predictable hysteria from the powers that be and utter nonsense from the spy agency and some “experts”. Take two examples – we were told that the only purpose of the domes is to keep the satellite dishes weatherproof. Then why doesn’t the multitude of Sky TV dishes on houses up and down the country each need a little dome to stop them getting rusty? The purpose of the domes is to conceal which direction the dish is pointing and thus conceal which satellites they are spying on. The other one was that Waihopai is under full NZ control and only spies for “us”. Read Nicky Hager’s 1996 “Secret Power”, which remains the seminal book on what Waihopai does and for whom (Nicky has written much more recently, in the Sunday Star Times of May 11, about Waihopai’s role as a cog in the US “War On Terror”). The head of the GCSB has no doubts about where his loyalties lie – as soon as he learned of the April 30 attack he rushed to warn NZ’s Big Brothers in the global intelligence gathering UKUSA Agreement (US, UK, Australia and Canada) in case there was a global plan to attack their bases. Why would he do that if Waihopai is an independent NZ operation?

There is an Australian precedent for what the Ploughshares group did and let’s hope that the outcome is the same. In 2005 four members of Christians Against All Terrorism got into the heavily guarded and top secret US warfighting spybase at Pine Gap, near Alice Springs, despite having warned the State about what they planned to do and when. They didn’t damage anything, simply trespassed. The furious State made them the first people ever charged under a draconian Cold War law. But in 2007 a judge fined them, rather than imprisoning them. Both sides appealed and this year they were acquitted, on the grounds that they had been denied a central plank of their defence, namely the right to introduce evidence as what Pine Gap does (it is the most important American spybase outside the US). It will be interesting to see how far the Ploughshares defendants are allowed to go in court about Waihopai’s functions.

To find out more about Waihopai and the other two bases in NZ – the US military base at Christchurch Airport and the GCSB’s Tangimoana spybase in the lower North Island - contact the Anti-Bases Campaign, Box 2258, Christchurch,

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