‘We’re dividing the world’: NZ no fan of AUKUS submarines

A senior New Zealand politician has raised concerns about Australia’s plan to acquire a fleet nuclear-powered submarines, saying the AUKUS pact will make the region less safe and limit military co-operation between the two allies.

Defence Minister Richard Marles told parliament on Tuesday that nuclear-powered submarines would form part of Australia’s “contribution to the collective security of the neighbourhood in which we live” and would improve relations with its Asia-Pacific neighbours.

Gerry Brownlee, foreign affairs spokesman for New Zealand’s centre-right National Party, said he was concerned AUKUS was painting China as an “enemy” that needed to be contained.

Former New Zealand foreign minister Gerry Brownlee said he has concerns about the AUKUS pact.


New Zealand is a proud nuclear-free state that has formally declared its airspace and territorial waters as nuclear-free zones.

Asked if the nuclear-powered submarine fleet would make the region safer, Brownlee told AAP: “No, I don’t think it does.

“What I don’t like is the concept that we just seem to be dividing the world.”

He said he was concerned Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines would not be able to dock in New Zealand under its nuclear-free policy.

“We’ve only got one alliance. It is with Australia,” said Brownlee, who previously served as foreign minister and defence minister.

“Our position is that we should remain as interoperable with the Australians as we possibly can.

“If the Pacific has become an area of military contest, the question will be, how does that manifest itself?

“Where would we be if the Australians decided they wanted a sub to visit? We can’t do that. We won’t change our laws. So there’ll be potentially a little bit of an issue around that.”

New Zealand will hold a general election in October, with a close contest expected between the governing Labour Party and the National Party.

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta is in Beijing for meetings.

Mark Mitchell/NZME

New Zealand’s foreign minister, Nanaia Mahuta, is currently visiting China for the first such visit since 2019.

Mahuta said her nation’s relationship with China – which accounts for 30 per cent of New Zealand’s total exports – was “our most important, complex and wide-ranging”.

and reported this week that the labour movement will hold its annual May Day march in Port Kembla out of growing concern the Wollongong suburb could become the east-coast home for eight nuclear-powered vessels.

During a visit to Canberra last month New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the three AUKUS nations – Australia, the US and the UK – were “incredibly important security partners for New Zealand, but our nuclear-free policy hasn’t changed either”.

Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark posted on Twitter: “New Zealand interests do not lie in being associated with AUKUS. Association would be damaging to independent foreign policy.”

Pointing to supportive comments from Fiji and Japan, while nations such as Indonesia and Malaysia were willing to discuss their concerns, Marles told parliament: “The response from our region to the announcement that we made last week has been gratifying. Australia draws our security from being a part of Asia and being located in the Indo-Pacific.”

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