Belinda Feek is a NZ Herald reporter

Dad and daughter set for warship protest

Daughter and father continue long tradition of peaceful action.

The Robertson family have a long legacy of standing up for what they believe in.

And 35-year-old Sian Robertson has every intention of it continuing.

Sian and her father, Doug Robertson, will next week lead a flotilla in protest of a US navy warship visiting Waitemata Harbour in Auckland.

Not only is Doug Robertson a veteran protester, but so was his father, Ian, who took his son on his first flotilla in 1976 in protest against the arrival of the USS Long Beach, a nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed ship.

His grandfather, John Robertson, was one of the first elected Labour MPs in 1911.

Sian Robertson said there would be 12 warships, including one from the US, arriving in the harbour. While the protesters had no qualms with the NZ Navy and its 75th birthday celebrations, it was the fact there were representatives from other countries visiting for the "arms fair" which coincides with the visit, she said.

"I thought it would be a real shame if there was no on-water response to this visit because of our history of getting out there and I also just feel really strongly about it. Auckland was declared the city of peace in 2011, but aside from that I think it's inappropriate for New Zealand to be hosting such a display of war-capable ships and a weapons conference.

"I think we should be a neutral nation and should broker peace and not be allying ourselves with any war nations."

Doug Robertson said the ships simply "glorified war" and that wasn't something that should be celebrated.

He was no stranger to controversy after having been arrested during the 1982 protests of the nuclear-capable British warship HMS Invincible arriving in New Zealand. He was charged with five serious offences, but he was fortunate the sitting judge threw out all charges, along with any prospect of jail time.

He said they had no plans to cause any trouble at the protest.

"We have no specific plans like that. Basically the idea is to get out there and to be seen to not be supporting what I see is the Government's promotion of war and cosying up to American foreign policy."

He said he's proud to have his daughter alongside him.

He said he first began taking her out on sailing trips when she was still in nappies to give her mum a break.

"I didn't take her out on peace flotillas but she certainly went to other social justice actions with me. I can remember we took her to a Springbok tour protest in a pushchair."

Sian Robertson said she believed most Kiwis were anti-war and thought of their country as more of a peace-keeping nation.

"And we are to some degree, but I think we could do better."

So far protesters from as far as Takaka, Wellington, Tauranga and Whanganui planned to attend.

Investigative journalist and anti-nuclear campaigner Nicky Hager earlier told the Herald a visit by a US ship was no threat to New Zealand's nuclear-free policy as the ships wouldn't be nuclear-powered.

"Because of changes on the US warships on their side - taking off the nuclear weapons - there is no threat to New Zealand's nuclear-free policy."

A visit would be a clear victory for New Zealand's nuclear-free stance, Hager said.

- NZ Herald

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