Mayor Justin Lester says NZDIA Weapons Expo won’t be held in council venues
Peace Action Wellington (PAW) met with Mayor Justin Lester on 6th September 2017 to discuss the New Zealand Defence Industry Association (NZDIA) Weapons Expo returning to Wellington. Justin Lester said whilst he is Mayor, the NZDIA Weapons Expo will not be held in council-controlled venues.
PAW welcomes the change in stance towards this arms-industry lobby group. Prior to the 2015 Weapons Expo, the group had asked the council take the ethical position and refuse to host the Weapons Expo at the council-owned TSB Arena. The Weapons Expo is a gathering of major arms manufacturers and war profiteers from across the globe. Many of these companies produce weapons for sale to political regimes that violate human rights.
Furthermore, the NZDIA Weapons Expo is currently sponsored by Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest arms company and manufacturer of nuclear weapons. The Weapons Expo is therefore in contradiction to Wellington’s declared position as a ‘nuclear free’ city.
Peace Action Wellington were therefore pleased to hear that council-controlled venues would not host arms dealers but would like to see this written into council policy. Peace Action spokesperson Ellie Clayton said, “After discussion with Justin, we are working with the council to try and develop this into an official venue policy so the policy will continue when Justin is no longer Mayor.”
Mayor Lester’s decision, however, does not include the Westpac Stadium, which is owned and operated by the Wellington Regional Stadium Trust. This Trust is not a council-controlled organisation, but is rather a charitable trust jointly settled by Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council. The Trust should therefore remain accountable to ratepayers. Accordingly, Peace Action Wellington currently have a petition to Wellington City Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council, asking them to say no to the annual NZDIA Weapons Expo being held anywhere in the Wellington region.
Mayor Justin Lester said he would speak with Trust Chief Executive Officer Shane Harmon about the Weapons Expo. Earlier in the year, Peace Action Wellington tried to reach out to the Wellington Regional Trust but have not had a reply from the trustees. After mass arrests at the TSB Arena in 2015, Councillor Iona Pannett moved an amendment for a ethical venue policy preventing council venues being used by the arms industry, but this was defeated.
PAW is planning a protest at the Westpac Stadium in October. Clayton commented, “Peace Action Wellington maintain that companies profiting from the weapons trade is morally indefensible. Te Whanganui-a-Tara should not be tarnished with the business of war. We encourage the people of Wellington to stand up and show resistance to war profiteers by joining us at the protests on October 10-11.”