The nuclear ships ban is in some ways a relic. If someone got up today and proposed such a ban they would be laughed at, because the reality is that no US ships have nuclear missiles anymore (except the attack subs which would not visit) and almost no ships even have nuclear power (the exception being once again the subs, and also some aircraft carriers which are most unlikely to visit). It’s a bit like wanting a ban on hydrogen filled blimps.
The Herald on Sunday has results of a “private” poll which shows 62% of NZers support US ships being able to visit, as long as they are not nuclear armed. Now I think the questions were slightly leading and the actual situation is closer to 50/50.
Now some people want the CR parties to campaign to amend the legislation, so that if they win office the law will be changed. They assume this would be welcomed by the United States.
In my opinion they are wrong and I base this on many discussions with various US officials over the years. They certainly very much want NZ to amend the legislation, but they don’t want the law changing backwards and forwards every six years as Governments change from CR to CL and vice-versa. And they especially do not want the NZ/US relationship being a controversial partisan election issue every three years. This would actually damage the relationship more than the current situation.
If one wants a permament solution to the silly stand-off on this issue, then one is going to need to get Labour to agree to amending the law. Now this is not as impossible as some might think, as a number of Labour MPs agree the ban on nuclear-powered ships is stupid, if for no other reason than the fact there are almost no nuclear-powered ships left to ban.
Incidentially the solutions are not just in the hands of NZ. As I said previously, both countries need to compromise on this issue – as it is silly having a stand off on what is basically a symbolic law only.