New Zealand

We had some fun this week with a visit from my Australian photographer friend John Rodsted. The NZ Cluster Munition Coalition decided to bring John out on a week-long speaking tour from Dunedin to Auckland. We did a pretty wild stunt in Wellington on 5 November, which concluded with fireworks for Guy Fawke’s Day. The actions helped give the campaign some profile ahead of the major treaty meeting that will take place in Wellington in February 2008.

I’ve accepted an invitation to participate on a committee that oversees the Peace and Disarmament Education Trust Fund, a body established by the government in 1988 uusing $1.5 million in reparations that France paid to New Zealand for its bombing of the Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior ship in Auckland harbour on 10 July 1985. It was a grant from the fund that enabled me to get started on my work banning landmines fifteen years ago so

On 22 March 2007, I brought some New Zealand NGO colleagues together to see if they’d be interested in campaigning against cluster munitions. The idea had been on my mind around since Israel dropped millions of cluster bomblets on South Lebanon in August 2006. I decided it was really time to get started when I heard the outcome of the talks in Norway that governments would launch a process to establish a treaty outlawing the weapon. As part of this the New Zealand government had agreed to play a lead role and to hold a key treaty-making meeting. I contacted Brian at Toolbox and he adjusted the global campaign logo that he designed so we’ve establish a national chapter of the global Cluster Munition Coalition with Oxfam NZ as its coordinator.

I organized a reception last night at the family catering business (Wareham House!) to inaugurate Oxfam New Zealand’s Wellington office. It was a lot of fun. About eighty representatives of the capital’s diplomatic, political, media, and non-governmental organizations came. We were especially pleased that Hon. Luamanuvao Winnie Laban agreed to speak. She is Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector and also member of parliament for the Mana electorate, where my parents live.

This afternoon I’m headed to John Head’s funeral. He passed away on Sunday, 4 February 2007. John worked to ban landmines with people in government, military and civil society both in NZ and overseas from the early days back in 1992 until ill health forced him to slow down a couple of months ago. John still had a telephone next to his bed though and would call me up about the newsletter, Landmine Monitor research, and to talk about cluster munitions. The award of the 2001 Queens Service Medal (QSM) was a fitting acknowledgment of his work. I had a lot of fun working on our last campaign event at parliament together – his perseverance made it happen. John is survived by Avril, his wife of 57 years, two children, and nine grandchildren.

I spent New Year’s 2007 in Gisborne in the North Island’s East Cape at a Rhythm and Vines party on a vineyard together with 18,000 drunken kids. I drove up from Wellington with an old friend Michelle Snater and we camped at the site the night before the party started. We spent the day collecting signatures on a petition to make trade fair before the kids got too drunk. Once the sun went down my Oxfam colleague Kirsty took the petitions over the stage where we showed them to the audience and then attached them to balloons to be released in a dawn ceremony.

The military rule became more entrenched in Fiji today. Prime Minister fled to his home island. He says economic sanctions will do more harm than good. There are eight stories listed on Pacific Beat. Commadore Bainimarama says he only intends to be Prime Minister for “a week.” yeah right…

Fiji’s 4th coup in 20 years took place tonight at 6.00pm. The announcement came after Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase was put under house arrest; he refuses to resign. Fijian soldiers are setting up roadblocks throughout Suva, something they know a bit about from their peacekeeping tours of duty. The expectations a coup would be staged have been running high for weeks and until tonight it had been averted by last-ditch talks by New Zealand, a rugby match Friday, and the weekend, but not by Australia warships. Military Commander Frank Bainimarama is President of the Fiji Rugby Union

Earlier this week, on 13 September, I helped the NZ Campaign Against Landmines (CALM) to launch the annual global Landmine Monitor Report 2006 with an event at parliament. We invited diplomats, politicians, military, civil society, and media and got a great turn0ut. Even my parents came! A local PR company produced some ketchup packets pro bono for the campaign that the Minister of Disarmament Phil Goff goodnaturedly helped promote on his fish and chips!

Last night the annual film festival opened in Wellington. It couldn’t have come at a better time given that we’ve been battling weeks of non-stop rain, wind, and generally miserable weather. I went to the Penthouse theater in Courtney Place to catch a documentary film about the global trade in coffee called Black Gold. Disarm had screened in the same festival as this film a few weeks ago in Jackson Hole, but I never got a chance to see it. After premiering at Sundance Black Gold has since been hitting all the major festivals, a list that I guess includes the NZ Film Fest???

After the screening we dragged the visiting filmmaker, a Brit named Nick Francis, down to the street through a hailstorm to our offices for a talk about Fair Trade. The David versus Goliath tale profiles the work of Tedasse, an Ethiopian coffee exporter, as he attempts to overcome all the barriers to get a decent price for his farmer’s coffee. The film provides a brilliant avenue for Oxfam to raise issues about unfair trade rules and explain terms like subsidies and tarriffs that normally put people to sleep. It should open in theaters across the UK and US later this year. So please see it! Check out their site:

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