What is the New Zealand Defence Industry Association forum? video

Tom Hunt/STUFF

Protesters are claiming victory after blockading a so-called "weapons expo" at Westpac Stadium.

Wellington's annual "weapons expo" has been blockaded by protesters for much of Tuesday – but what exactly are they fighting against?

Nine protesters were arrested during fraught scenes outside the New Zealand Defence Industry Association (NZDIA) forum being held at Westpac Stadium.

Protesters blocked every entrance into the stadium early on Tuesday in an attempt to stop the forum. As each busload of delegates arrived, police blocked off the out-of-city lanes of Waterloo and Aotea Quay and, at one point, scuffling protesters and police broke into the traffic.

A page from the New Zealand Defence Industry Association forum's 2017 brochure,  themed around emerging national ...
NZDIA

A page from the New Zealand Defence Industry Association forum's 2017 brochure, themed around emerging national security technology and cyber-security capability.

The forum, which has been dubbed a "weapons expo" by protesters, has been staged almost exclusively in Wellington for about 20 years, but has become mired in controversy over recent years.

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NZDIA deputy chairman Andrew Ford has said labelling the forum a "weapons expo" is "stretching the truth", and the event is mainly about bringing together suppliers of services and products to support the defence and national security sectors.

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A woman tries to avoid being dragged away by police outside a defence forum being held at Wellington's Westpac Stadium on Tuesday.

Among those dragged away by police was a disabled man with a walking cane, associated with People Against Prisons Aotearoa (PAPA).

Police attempt to stop protesters outside the defence forum, being held at Wellington's Westpac Stadium.

Police remove protesters who locked arms to prevent buses entering Westpac Stadium for the defence forum, which was labelled a weapons expo.

Police move protesters to allow a bus through.

Police and protesters at Westpac Stadium.

Protesters lie down in Aotea Quay in a bid to stop a bus with conference attendees getting through.

Police remove one of many protesters at Westpac Stadium. Fourteen people were arrested.

Police remove protesters who had locked arms to prevent buses carrying delegates from entering.

Protesters confront police outside Westpac Stadium.

A policewoman kneels on a protester.

Police shift a protester outside the stadium.

A protester appeals to delegates on a bus attempting to enter the stadium for the defence forum, which was dubbed a "weapons expo".

A protester is taken away by police, outside a defence forum held at Wellington's Westpac Stadium.

Delegates at a defence forum in Wellington make their way off a bus under heavy police guard.

Protesters make their feeling known outside a defence forum held at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.

Protesters confront police.

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In 2015 the normally under-the-radar conference came under scrutiny when police made mass arrests of protesters when it was held at the Wellington City Council-controlled TSB Arena.

Most of the activists were arrested on trespassing charges, which were dropped earlier this year after a lengthy court battle with police.

  The next year the conference was held in Auckland, but returned to the capital this year.

Lockheed Martin, a multinational supplier of nuclear weapons, aircraft and arms, is the main sponsor of the forum.
REUTERS

Lockheed Martin, a multinational supplier of nuclear weapons, aircraft and arms, is the main sponsor of the forum.

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester, under pressure from activists, agreed the forum should not return to any council sites. It is being held at Westpac Stadium, because that venue is not under direct council control.

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Lester said the expo, the main sponsor of which was nuclear weapons, aviation and arms giant Lockheed Martin, was "not an appropriate event for a civic venue". The council wanted to steer clear of any associated conflict.

Before the 2015 forum, former United States intelligence adviser Paul Buchanan told Stuff that anyone with basic human intelligence-gathering skills would know arms industry forums were "absolute goldmines". 

A woman tries to avoid being dragged away by police at Tuesday's protest outside Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
KEVIN STENT/STUFF

A woman tries to avoid being dragged away by police at Tuesday's protest outside Westpac Stadium in Wellington.

Buchanan said it would be no surprise to have representatives from not just the private intelligence sector, but the intelligence community itself.

"There will be foreigners there. I would not be surprised if there were representatives from the Chinese embassy. Maybe we'll see the US military attache show up. It will be an interesting who's who."

Ford said the forum brought together government and defence force buyers with arms, cybersecurity and military procurement manufacturers. He believed most people would support defence forces being properly equipped to defend themselves and fulfil their peacekeeping duties.

Among those detained and dragged away was a disabled man with a walking cane.
KEVIN STENT/STUFF

Among those detained and dragged away was a disabled man with a walking cane.

This year's forum has more than 500 delegates from about 150 organisations, including the Ministry of Defence, New Zealand Defence Force and other government agencies responsible for national security.

In a recent statement, Ford said the 2017 forum was themed around "emerging technologies and cybersecurity capabilities supporting national security agencies".

Advances in simulation, unmanned aerial vehicles, and "next-generation platforms" would be discussed.

Police remove protesters who locked arms to prevent buses carrying delegates from entering the forum venue.
KEVIN STENT/STUFF

Police remove protesters who locked arms to prevent buses carrying delegates from entering the forum venue.

"Cyber is the new warfare domain across the full spectrum of national security agencies and, as a result, industry has a huge part to play in delivering solutions to a wider range of agencies," he said.

Alongside a "small number" of weapons exhibitors, there was also clothing, food services, property and facilities management, personal safety and protection equipment. The main sectors represented were maintenance repair, overhaul logistics, "professional advisory services", information communication technology, and engineering.

 - Stuff

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