Laurie Ross writes about the contribution of her father, Larry Ross, to New Zealand's anti-nuclear movement. Larry Ross (right) is pictured here in 2002, receiving a City Peace Award from Christchurch mayor Garry Moore.
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Larry Ross was the founder of the New Zealand Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Committee, which existed from 1981 to 2007.
Born Lawrence Frederich James Ross in 1929, Ross emigrated to Christchurch from Canada in 1962 with his wife and six children. He came to New Zealand to be able to work more effectively for nuclear disarmament and survival of humanity after nuclear war. He became active in the United Nations Association and the anti-Vietnam War movement, and wrote World War III and the Southern Hemisphere in 1963. The next year he established the Australasia branch of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation.
Larry Ross’s original proposal for New Zealand to establish a nuclear weapon-free zone was accepted at the Annual New Zealand Peace Conference in 1981 at Living Springs. He spearheaded the idea based on the 1978 United Nations Resolutions advocating that nation states declare themselves nuclear weapon-free zones as a meaningful contribution to the process for international disarmament.
Ross launched the Nuclear Free New Zealand Campaign in Christchurch in 1981, and designed the distinctive logo, petition, badges, and stickers used by peace groups throughout the country. He produced merchandise and made it readily available through effective marketing, providing the means for inexpensive promotion and advertising of the message, along with authoritative education materials that empowered people
He travelled around New Zealand to small towns, inspiring and initiating people, helping them to form independent neighbourhood peace groups to lobby their local councils to declare nuclear-free zones. This was the vital process along with direct lobbying of MPs that was required to establish a foundation of popular public support in order to achieve the central government policy.
This goal was accomplished in the 1984 election which voted in a Labour government on this platform, led by David Lange. Eventually by 1987 there were 105 councils which had declared local nuclear-free zones, covering over 72% of the population. The Labour government was re-elected and passed the Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act 1987.
In 1986 Ross established the Nuclear Free Peacemaking Association 1986 to further develop the public understanding and political value for a new defence and foreign policy of ‘peacemaking neutrality’. He organised and promoted a series of speaking tours throughout the country for internationally respected people. This continued the educational process on the danger and horror of nuclear war and how people could work effectively to prevent it. He also went on overseas speaking tours, to promote the idea of other nation states declaring themselves nuclear-free zones as a foundation of peacemaking for humanity and the abolition of nuclear weapons.
Larry Ross received the Queen’s Service Medal in 1987 and the Christchurch Peace City Award in 2002. His dedicated peace work over 50 years involved collaborating with a variety of groups on issues opposing war and militarism and pursuing non-violent alternatives.
He died on 18 April 2012, aged 84. His seminal mind produced a legacy of ideas that will live on for the benefit of New Zealanders and inspiring future generations.
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