1976 – 1984

This was a time of further change in New Zealand. People became more politically active, and anti-nuclear legislation ultimately reflected this. Tensions were evident in New Zealand, and certainly for the New Zealand Navy, as people protested the entry of US Navy ships, which would neither confirm nor deny their nuclear capabilities. Local tensions were set against the backdrop of global tensions represented by the Cold War.

The New Zealand government valued its relationship with the United States and strove to maintain it through most of this time period. As a result, the government was happy for nuclear-powered US ships to visit NZ shores. This sparked resistance from many New Zealanders and there were ongoing protests, as early as 1976 when USS Truxtun and Long Beach visited. The New Zealand Navy found itself in the position of having to both protect the passage of any US ship coming into New Zealand waters while at the same time manage the safety of protesters on the water.

NZ–US naval relations were friendly and cooperative. When a New Zealand naval vessel was in a foreign port, such as Pearl Harbor, for training, senior officers from both navies met with each other. They attended lunches, dinners, and other events. Politicans sometimes attended such events also.

In 1984, the incoming government of New Zealand had a strong anti-nuclear stance. It questioned whether US naval ships were nuclear armed as well as nuclear powered. Ultimately, there would be a rift in the ANZUS agreement when the US refused to either confirm or deny this information. New Zealand naval training opportunities both with Canada and the US would suddenly be lost and NZ–US relations would reach a low point.

Explore the resources on this website to learn more about what happened during this time period.

Photos & Documents

Say No to the Truxton

USS Haddow Protest

USS Phoenix Protest

USS Texas Protest

USS Pintado Protest

Nuclear Weapons Free Poster

Margaret Thatcher Letter


Nuclear Reaction – Anti-nuclear protest

50 Years of Television in New Zealand – The Whole World’s Watching video

Lieutenant Commander Hugh Aitken video interview

Nuclear Waste music video

French Letter music video

Nuclear Reaction – Big Norm

Here is the news – 1984 Snap Election


Rear Admiral Cedric Steward oral history audio recording

Ronald Reagan and Rob Muldoon audio recording

Eyewitness Peace Squadron – Rev George Armstrong – Start at 3m20s

Eyewitness Peace Squadron – Peace Squadron protest- Start at 2m

Archival audio in ‘Bomb Gone’ from the RNZ collection at Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision.