New Zealand spy base works for Donald Trump now, protesters say
Protesters are calling for the closure of Marlborough's Waihopai spy base for a new reason this year – they don't want United States President Donald Trump getting any information out of New Zealand.
The annual protest outside Waihopai Station, west of Blenheim, focused on the new American president, with protesters concerned about what Trump might do with information the base collected.
Anti Bases Campaign organiser Murray Horton said whistleblower Edward Snowden had proved the spy base collected phone and internet data from New Zealand and south Pacific countries for the US National Security Agency.
"Donald J Trump becoming president is an opportune time to question why, question the whole future of the United States-New Zealand relationship. These guys work for Trump now," Horton said, gesturing toward the domes.
"We pay their wages, the spooks and geeks that work here . . . but for all intents and purposes this is an outpost of American intelligence operating on New Zealand soil."
Outgoing Green MP Steffan Browning, who was at Saturday's protest, said the Green Party would continue to oppose the spy base. He said the Labour Party should follow suit.
"I'm very concerned we don't have the Labour Party here. We've got good co-operation with them now . . . so will they, in an alternative government to what we've got now, join with the Greens in closing this down?" he asked.
Hawke's Bay peace pilgrim Liz Remmerswaal, who protested at Australia's Pine Gap spy base in September, said the $178.7 million to be spent on New Zealand intelligence in the next four years was a waste of money.
"I think we could solve the world's problems if we just stopped investing in military. We could be spending that on education and healthcare.
"Having these alliances with the US makes us less secure, not more secure. It makes US enemies our enemies, too."
Blenheim man Stephen Webb said he had never heard of the annual spy base protest until the Our Children's Future Hikoi passed through Blenheim on its way to Parliament last year.
"Since then I've learnt a bit about the issues and what had been confirmed by Snowden, and I decided to come. It's important we make our voice heard and raise some awareness."
Government Communications Security Bureau director Andrew Hampton said sometimes it was in the public interest to share information with the other countries in the Five Eyes partnership, which included the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.
"For example, we may obtain information about a cyber security threat or potential for terrorist activity. Any information sharing is done in accordance with New Zealand law and our international human rights obligations."
New Zealand also benefited from information received from Five Eyes partners, he said.
However he would not provide examples of when shared information was used to protect New Zealanders.
"In terms of the GCSB's role in helping to control specific threats, it is a long-standing practice that we do not comment on matters that may or may not be operational."
He also declined to comment on whether continuing to share information with the United States should be seen as an endorsement of Trump as president.
Senior Sergeant Grant Andrews, of Tasman police, said there were no issues with the protest.
"It was very peaceful, and they all headed back into Blenheim without any problems."
Former Green MP Keith Locke said instead of marching through the streets of Blenheim, or jumping the fence to confront the police officers guarding the domes, the focus of this year's protest was on education.
A series of free workshops was hosted on Saturday by Locke, investigative journalist Nicky Hager and Dunedin academic Kyle Matthews, before a screening of documentary The 5th Eye was held.
Protesters received messages of support from several international organisations and WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange.
"Most people do not want to approve of a dark network of spy agencies engaged in mass surveillance, assassination and war that does not respect democratic oversight and which can result in unpredictable conflicts with other nations," Assange said.
"New Zealand's protesters can be proud."
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