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Written By: - Date published: 2:25 pm, November 29th, 2008 - 44 comments
Categories: Environment, International, national/act government - Tags:

Foreign Minister and Whaling Spokesperson Murray McCully has announced that New Zealand will be breaching international law by not undertaking search and rescue operations if whalers or protesters get into trouble in New Zealand’s zone of responsibility.

Great. So, in a week and a half our new government has abandoned its part in the global effort to combat climate change (even calling into question whether these is a problem to confront), called a close ally’s anti-climate change policy irrational, and, now, we’re going to break the Law of the Sea.

Well, we’re not really going to thumb our nose at the international community. McCully just doesn’t have a handle on his portfolio yet. He can’t have understood the consequences of what he was saying when he said we won’t carry out search and rescue. I’m sure Mfat and Civil Defence will soon be briefing him, pointing out to him that we have a legal obligation to carry out search and rescue when it is required in our zone of responsibility and offering the opinion that violating a fundamental and long-established piece of international law for no apparent reason is not in New Zealand’s interest.

Still, a pity that after nine years in opposition and dealing with whaling issues for years (including last year when New Zealand rescued a gravely ill Japanese whaler) that McCully seems to have no idea about his portfolio. A pity, too, that he didn’t recognise his own ignorance and ask for advise from officials before publicly reneging on our international responsibilities and making us look like fools or rogues in the eyes of the rest of the world.

44 comments on “Wailin’ ”

  1. Rex Widerstrom 1

    Of course we should rescue whalers. Just chopper across in the Westpac helicopter, hover a safe distance above the deck, fire a barbed projectile into the ailing crewman, then winch him aboard. Slowly.

    Now because the Japanese are weird and exotic creatures, not yet fully understood, we’ll need to conduct some “research” on him when we’ve got him on board.

    At least we can guarantee he won’t end up being fed to hungry salarymen on Lambton Quay. I think.

  2. bobo 2

    If this is true it sets a dangerous precedent for bringing politics into fundamental search & rescue, McCully I thought was a strange choice for the foreign affairs portfolio, he isn’t noted for his public speaking, low public profile , the only reason he got the job was because he is a possible threat to Key as National’s plotter and schemer..

  3. sweeetdisorder 3

    You can’t see a difference between some yacht or cargo vessel getting into trouble in the deep sea, and someone going there with intent to create trouble. Stuff the protesters, if they want to cause trouble, they can get themselves out of it. This behavior is piracy and the Japanese are well within their rights to defend themselves. Further more, these protesters is they engage in this behavior should be arrested when they get back to NZ. I don’t see what you guys get so hung up on whales for. Much bigger problems at home to deal with.

  4. gingercrush 4

    What the hell is McCully smoking. This is nonsense.

  5. Pascal's bookie 5

    sweeet nice one. Punishment first, trial after!

    The fact is that until anyone is tried and found guilty of some offense they are entitled to all the protections of the law. That includes the laws and protections in this case. Even after these protesters are tried for any offenses they may commit, the way they are treated is determined by law, not some tories feelings about what they were up to. Conservatives used to understand this, it’s a very conservative idea. Don’t see many proper conservatives these days. I blame that fucking retard Reagan and the rest of the GOP since, after him they only got worse. Electorally it works, playing to the lizard brain will get you over the finnish line more often than not, and so right wing parties have been following their lead the world over. For shame, etc.

  6. sweeetdisorder 6


    this is a hell of a lot different between protesting outside some embassy and going hundreds of miles into the southern ocean to potentially put lives in risk and still expecting that when it turns bad someone will be there to rescue them. That is the point I am making.

  7. Pascal's bookie 7

    Yeah I got that disorder, you think that your feelings about some of the actors involved trump the laws involved. My thinking that that is a crappy, dangerous, and short sighted way of looking at things was the point I was making.

  8. bobo 8

    If you start to judge who deserves to get rescued on merit, stuff the people who get pissed then take their boat out then and hit a reef, screw those who don’t wear life jackets, screw those who kayak the tasman with no support vessel, screw those who try to break the world record on a bio fueled speed boat killing innocent fisherman in the process…

  9. sweeetdisorder 9

    bobo, maybe we should.

    Maybe they should have to take out insurance.

    But also maybe all those you listed above are not trying to get between a large trawler and a whale in the deep blue sea when such vessel is trying to fire a harpoon with an explosive tip.

  10. Felix 10

    sweetdisorder you’ve shown you’re a fuckwit. No need to go on about it.

  11. So this is the standard we can expect from the government? If someone in Helen Clark’s government made such idiotic comments they would be face serious consequences.

  12. QoT 12

    Nothing makes me giggle like rightwingers deciding there’s a subjective basis for human rights and empathy. Really easy argument to make when you’re the ones in power, sure, but then it’s all “waaaa nanny state waaa Labour’s silencing us with the EFA waaaa”.

  13. bobo 13

    Whats next, directing Piha Life Savers to only save National voting swimmers in distress.. I guess all those Westie Bogans who swim in jeans will be lucky then.

  14. Lew 14

    QoT: Cf. British National Party using the Human Rights Act (which it recently called `one of the most pernicious pieces of legislation ever passed’) to try to legally protect the identities of its members, which have been leaked by disgruntled insiders.


  15. Ianmac 15

    Sweet: Don’t ya know? We changed tack about rights a few months ago. Remember: “Guilty! Now lets have a trial!” cried John Key when talking about Winston Peters in Parliament. This allowed Key to take a prinipled stand at least a month before the Priveleges Hearing and several months before the other agencies found Peters not guilty.
    So McCulley is within his rights to say anyone down there must be guilty of something and should suffer. We won’t help!

  16. Janet 16

    McCully (and others such as Steven Joyce) did not get their roles in the govt on merit or suitability for the job. Key is only leader because of them and some other strategic players in the National Party, so could they could name their price. How naive NZ voters are to expect some understanding of their portfolios, or heaven forbid – ethical principles!

  17. sweeetdisorder 17

    So tell me Janet, how does one get a role in govt; years service as a trade unionist, academic or activist? Come back when you rant is over.

    Ianmac, who laughs last…….scampi anyone?

  18. Quoth the Raven 18

    Maybe they should have to take out insurance.

    I’m sure an insurance pay out will be very helpful when they’re dead.
    While we’re at it let’s give up on trying to save mountaneers or trampers they knew the risks when they went out. The money saved could go to tax cuts for the rich so they can keep more columbians in gainful employment.

  19. rainman 19

    “McCully seems to have no idea”

    Yep, unfortunately true in any context. I’m still trying to get my head around why 20000 or so of my near neighbours voted the useless bastidge in. I have yet to find someone (even NP supporters) who can say one positive thing about him.

  20. Janet 20

    It’s called public service. It’s an ethical thing. You observe, you watch and learn, then you act in the peoples’ interest, taking into account that we are all citizens of the world.

  21. What kind of fascist bullshit has sweeetdisorder been smoking? People deserve to be rescued no matter what. Big fucking period.

  22. Rex Widerstrom 22

    Quoth the Raven suggests:

    Maybe they should have to take out insurance.

    I’m sure an insurance pay out will be very helpful when they’re dead

    I could be wrong, but I think the suggestion involves having the insurance reimburse the rescue organisation (be it the Navy, Search & Rescue or yes, the Piha Lifesavers) for the costs of the rescue.

    Not such a silly idea, in principle. If you are going to put yourself between a harpoon and a whale – or a 180kg prop and a rugby ball, for that matter – then you are wilfully assuming a foreseeable risk of a relatively known quantity.

    I’ve never understood why my taxes should pay to cover you for the risks inherent in doing so, or why the Piha Lifesavers should have to eke out their meagre donations to cover the cost of retrieving a pissed bogan swimming in jeans.

    Not that such idiots should drown (although the improvement to the gene pool does make that a tempting suggestion…) but if they haven’t had the foresight to take out accident cover then they should be handed a bill.

    The practical difficulties lie, of course, in assessing the foreseeability of risk, but I’ll bet some actuary somewhere has a table…

  23. gomango 23

    A couple of points spring to mind….

    – McCully’s sentiments are actually good if it reduces the propensity of idiot nationalist japanese to hunt whales that no one in japan wants to eat any more. They cant sell whale meat from 10 years ago let alone this seasons kill.

    – NZ administers one of the largest SRR areas in the world and the reality is that if you get into trouble down below the 70th parallel your chances ain’t good. We have nothing capable of reaching there and uplifting distressed persons.

    – Notwithstanding the international convention, NZ law (1990 Civil Aviation Act) states that the minister of transport blah blah blah has responsibility blah blah blah “to coordinate and conduct aviation, maritime and other search and rescue operations that the minister considers appropriate.” Here is our oceanic SAR capability – 1 RNZ Navy vessel available at eight hours notice. Most likely based in Auckland. Rescue required at (say) 70S – thats 34 degrees times 60 minutes = 2040 nautical miles – steaming at an impressive 30 knots thats about 68 hours plus 8 hours notice period to get there. Meanwhile you’re dead sometime in the previous 3 days. Our hercules or orion capability from Whenuapai have a radius of action of 1200 nm. That gets you just over half way to the Ross sea, and all they can do is drop a lindholme pack anyway.

    – But most importantly, the DomPost story is actually just a really crap piece of journalism. If you read the article McCully is not suggesting we ignore our responsibility under the 1979 Maritime Search and Rescue Convention – that is the responsibility to administer the NZ SRR, much as that slant makes for a sensationalist post on this blog. Our responsibility is not actually to rescue people in trouble, it is to provide coordination and communication services. We sometimes choose to send a vessel or an aircraft because we can, not because we have to. Next door to our SRR is the SRR administered by Easter Island, it also finishes at the geographic south pole. Think they are going to send out frigates or orions if the Japs or protestors get into trouble east of longitude 130? Again, their job is to coordinate any rescue effort, not necessarily to make it. What you generally rely on to do the rescuing is other vessels in the area of the emergency.. And in the story McCully points that out. Which is also what the RCC spokesman points out. Some of the comments above seem to assume we have a vast Thunderbird International Rescue infrastructure poised to leap into action.

    This story and this debate are a beat up.

    A more interesting debate to have is what duty does any government have to rescue someone who deliberately puts themself in danger thru either conscious effort (japanese whalers, Sea Shepherd, solo yachtsmen, alpinists) or carelessness (unprepared tourists, drunk boaties, etc). Its not black and white, but why shouldn’t participants in activities that create a higher than normal risk of needing SAR have to bear the cost of that increased risk? Sign up for life insurance or ACC coverage and tell them you are a base jumper or a top dressing pilot and see what happens to your premiums. Why should SAR be different?

  24. enid sharples 24

    Gomango states my case.

    A sloppy piece in the Dom Post and even sloppier smearing by TheStevenPierson.org.nz

    Try and lift your game ‘Steve’ if you want to encourage debate here.

    [lprent: You never do learn – do you? Especially when talking about lifting standards and encouraging debate. You have had multiple identities, multiple bans, a lot of notes, and a very low dialogue and debate component in 7 pages of comments.
    Tell me why I shouldn’t just feed you to the anti-spam bot? I think that the blogosphere could do without your standards]

  25. Chris G 25

    I just plain dont understand Mccullys reasoning behind this. What an idiot

    Amen to the others who commented what would happen had Labour done such a thing – We would have seen lists of conventions and treaties broken spouted by the usual suspects.

  26. gomango 26

    Janet :

    It’s called public service. It’s an ethical thing. You observe, you watch and learn, then you act in the peoples’ interest, taking into account that we are all citizens of the world.

    Are you serious? Lets start observing, watching and learning……… Zimbabwe. Sudan. Somalia. Sri Lanka. Nigeria. Myanmar. China. Ivory Coast. Sierra Leone. Gaza. Iraq. Iran. Afghanistan. Rural Queensland. Guantanomo Bay. Cuba. Colombia. Venezuela. Fiji. East Timor. Thailand. Plus maybe 150 other states or regions where you could observe, watch and learn and then act in the peoples interest. If they ask what you are doing just say to them “I am a citizen of the world, just hold still while I act in your interest.”

    Once you fix the various geographical regions you could start on people with incorrect attitudes – like me. Observe, watch, learn then intervene to save me from incorrect thoughts.

    Off you go to intervene then, let us know how you effect change. All very well being young and idealistic but even an iota of reality would be helpful when you want to talk to the grown ups.

  27. gomango 27

    Chris G – read my post above. Better yet read the original article in the Dom Post. McCully is not advocating breaking treaties or conventions. He is merely pointing out it might be difficult to dispatch a rescue vessel from NZ, not an action we have to take under the relevant convention. He actually implies we will fulfill our duties as the entity responsible for NZSRR.

    “If there are any difficulties then, as is often the case, we’re going to be reliant on any vessels that are in the area.”

    What we wont do is send rescue ships – something we are not obliged to do under the convention. Where the Dom Post journalist saw a quote from McCully she could transform into

    The Government will not mount a rescue mission if anyone on the Japanese whaling fleet or pursuing protest ships is injured this summer – a stance that breaches international law.

    who knows.

    Any ideas?

  28. gomango 28

    should be original not regional in the first line. I did change it in edit mode……

    [lprent: It is changed on my screen. Probably you just got caught by caching somewhere]

  29. enid sharples 29

    Lprent: >>

    Gomango is correct, the DomPost journo made up a story and Steve just made up an even weaker story.

    If you’re going to ping me then to keep standards you should be keeping editorial standards higher and talking to Felix, I mean geez, all he does is abuse people.

    [lprent: There are no editorial standards. We give a very free rein to both writers and commentators.

    What we have is moderation, which is quite a different process. Generally the moderators don’t give a damn about sniping – so long as the comment has a point, and it isn’t drearily repetitive. Felix has been sniping, but not enough to raise my ire on the other points. Most of the time his comments are directed at why people are holding specific opinions. Besides he has considerable leeway because he also offers cogent thoughts. We kill trolls because they add nothing to the conversation and get incredibly boring to read, both for the moderators and for everyone else – they damage the site’s accessibility for people who do contribute to the discussion.

    What I object to is when people attack the site, including the writers. Stuff like what gomango wrote was cogent criticism directly attacking the Steve’s opinion and explaining why gomango thought his opinion was wrong. What you wrote was straight personal attack on Steve using gomango as cover. That isn’t something that I allow here – it also attacks the site. There is a hell of a difference between gomango contributing and you acting like a dickhead]

  30. RedLogix 30


    You make perfectly reasonable points. Rescue from an NZ base deep into the Antarctic is virtually impossible. Always has been, and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.

    The point is, what’s changed?

    This fact was so last whaling season, and remains so now. What was the point of McCully saying anything about it? Either the man is an idiot for merely restating the obvious, or he was clumsily signalling a change in political attitude around the NZ Govts anti-whaling position.

    In the first cast all he has accomplished is casting a completely unecessary shadow of doubt around how this govt regards it’s International SAR obligations, without achieving anything useful.

    In the latter case the story is interesting for the sub-text message it is sending to the Japanese whalers, protestors… and the urban-liberal segment of the NZ public whose swing in this last election has largely voted this govt in. That is a line worth pursuing.

    Above PB wrote:

    Don’t see many proper conservatives these days. I blame that fucking retard Reagan and the rest of the GOP since, after him they only got worse.

    Reading this thread leaves me feeling that it’s not an ideological divide we are shouting at each other across, but a moral chasm. Your complete inability to even grasp the notion of public service, and your sneering put down of Janet, leaves me saddened. Once upon a time the notion of public service was very conservative idea. A generation of “small govt, all tax is theft” ideology has not only killed off that idea, but rendered whole tranches the modern right wing morally crippled.

    Ideals are just that; ideals. They are a target, something to aspire to. In the real world we always fall short of our ideals. Moral failure is not the missing of the target, it is the cynical abandonment of the target altogether.

  31. gomango 31

    My put down of Janet has nothing to do with public service or morality – its more about suggesting people have a think before they write something really stupid. Personally, for what it is worth I believe very much in the public good. For the last six years I based myself in NZ by choice and have paid NZ tax rates instead of HK/Singapore rates. Personal cost between 200k an 500k per annum, so I do my bit, dont worry about that. I am about to retrain as a teacher – last time I checked that paid about 350k pa less than my current job. I call that public service along with the time I give as a cub leader, school board member, charitable trust director (unpaid).

    You are are clearly confusing rhetoric with action. If I spout some touchy feely nonsense about “greater good”, “public worth”, “peoples interest”, “citizen of the world” etc can I be part of your right thinking club without necessarily having to do something practical about it in my life?

  32. RedLogix 32


    I’ll cut you a deal. If you refrain from passing judgments about other people (eg Janet) you know nothing about, I’ll extend the same courtesy to you.

    I’m faintly curious; what is it about your current employment that is so onerous, that a 350k pay cut to be a teacher looks attractive?

  33. gomango 33

    not too onerous – i’ve been doing the same sort of thing for 17 years – with current state of global markets its not a huge stretch to give up the stress and uncertainty, and to be fair my income would likely be a lot less going forward in the new reality for investment banks. And teaching is something I have always wanted to do – nearly went that route 20 years ago but realised the pay and conditions were terrible. Fortunate instead to luck into a sector that paid entrepreneurial money for working in a corporate structure. And now I have the financial freedom to do what I would really like to do and that is teach. So a mini mid life crisis or the chance to take a second chance? Either way I am really looking forward to it and can do it for another 15 years if I enjoy it as much as I hope. Secondary school maths is the intention.

  34. Janet 34

    Thanks for defending me. That’s nice. Strange that one should need to be defended for advocating ethical global behaviour.
    Good luck with your new career. Great move, teenagers are great, but teaching is hard work too. I hope you get to work in a low decile school and have the opportunity to teach kids a love of maths and life long learning, and help raise their expectations of themselves – in spite of the negative stuff they are getting from mainstream NZ, and their families maybe surviving on less than $20,000.
    And join the PPTA and realise the advantages of union collectivism when right wing governments attack teachers.

  35. Quoth the Raven 35

    Rex – Yes Rex I can imagine it now. “Your drowning uh huh. What was that insurance number again? Oh sorry dear your insurance doesn’t cover sea rescues only mountain and spelunking rescues. Would you like to extend your coverge? And how would you like to pay for that?”
    “Gurgle gurgle”

  36. Rex Widerstrom 36

    QtR – What you’ve described could be termed “natural selection” 😀

    Nah, I envisage something like all-encompassing “risk taker’s insurance”. After all, we don’t run ACC like that… your premium covers you whether you’ve put just the tip of your finger into the cigar cutter, your entire digit, or an altogether more tender piece of your anatomy.

    If you want to indulge in risk taking behaviour you buy “idiot insurance” which covers you for anything which might happen while taking risk. If you take risk without it, once you’ve been pumped dry of seawater, you’d be pumped dry of money so the rest of us didn’t foot the bill for your foolishness.

    I just don’t want my taxes and ACC premiums covering those people who wish to spend their free time trying to recreate their favourite scenes from “Jackass”. I’d rather them be kept to improve care for people who have had accidents in the true (i.e. “unforeseeable occurences”) sense of the term.

    Hey, I don’t claim to have ironed out all the wrinkles, I’m just advocating a principle…

  37. bill brown 37

    So, let me guess, we get the lawyers in to decide who’s an idiot and who isn’t?

  38. enid sharples 38


    [lprent: bye. Pointless wasting more time on this bozo. Added to spam]

  39. sweeetdisorder 39

    I think we can all agree that trying to get between a large trawler and a whale in the deep blue sea when such vessel is trying to fire a harpoon with an explosive tip is not really a “true” accident, but a premeditated event that is going to end in trouble one way or another.

    Same applies to Base Jumpers, Rock Climbers, Deep Sea Divers, yada yada yada. I bet their insurance company takes into account how they spend their time.

    I would love to see the Sea Shepard try to get insurance. Question. what is the intended description of your trip. Answer. To get between a Japanese trawler and a whale in the deep southern ocean and disrupt them from firing their explosive tipped harpoon. Yeah, that will easily get marked ‘accepted’.

  40. Janet 40

    When is sea protest safe and acceptable then? What about the Frigate Canterbury going to Mururoa in 1973? Or would you condemn that too?

  41. felix 41

    gomango that was a fascinating glimpse into your life and career. Like Janet I wish you the best of luck teaching.

    Just out of interest would you pronounce your name “go man, go” or “go mango”?

  42. sweeetdisorder 42


    Are you seriously comparing a warship to a protest vessel? A ship designed to get in harms way, y’know go to war compared to a converted whatever it was in a former life?

    One represents the state and all her power, the other does not, not even a little bit, not even close.

  43. Rex Widerstrom 43

    bill brown: I imagine most of the risk-taking behaviour would be codified in regulations and only a relatively small proportion would fall within a grey area and thus be litigated. Much like ACC claims.

    As sweeetdisorder says, base jumpers, rock climbers and deep sea divers are already assesed on risk, as are smokers, when applying for life or health insurance. Adding harpoon dodgers and other activities which are clearly risky to the list isn’t difficult.

    I do like QtR’s idea though… I wonder if it could be applied to those other insurances as well… “Hello? Uhhh, look, when I took out my insurance I said I didn’t do anything risky? Well, it’s just that my chute hasn’t opened and uhh… I was wondering if I could amend my policy.”

    “Please hold, an operator will be with you shortly…”

  44. RedLogix 44

    teehee, very good Rex. Even the girl liked it.

    Funny how technology changes things so quickly; just a few years ago it would have been incomprehensible.

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    7 days ago
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