Thursday, August 03, 2006

Seceding

The small group of protesters occupying Happy Valley, a remote part of the northwest coast of the South Island slated for coal mining, has declared independence:

The occupation of Happy Valley, on the West Coast, turns six months today. The Save Happy Valley Coalition, which has been blocking Solid Energy's attempts to turn the Valley into an open-cast coal mine, has commemorated the anniversary by declaring the entire Waimangaroa Valley [1] an 'Autonomous zone.'

"Today, the delicate ecosystems of Happy Valley cease to exist merely as a source of revenue for Solid Energy, and now exist only for themselves. The Save Happy Valley Coalition [2] reaffirms its commitment to employ non-violent direct action to defend Happy Valley from both the digger and dynamite of state owned enterprise Solid Energy. By declaring the Valley as an autonomous zone [3], the Coalition has taken practical steps to ensure its protection," said Coalition spokesperson Frances Mountier.


I'm not sure how successful the protesters will be in controlling their new state. New Zealand's armed forces may have been run down somewhat over the past couple of decades, but I still think they'd be more of a match for the boys and girls bedding down in teepees. More's the pity. To be fair, the protesters seem to be aiming to create publicity, rather than take on the state.

This isn't the first time a small group of people has tried to secede from the rest of New Zealand. In 1879 the good folk of Hawera, a small town in the south Taranaki, declared independence in protest at the supposed reluctance of the government in Wellington to press ahead with the crushing of the de facto Maori state of Parihaka, which had been defying attempts by settlers to survey its farmland. Believing that the central government was unwilling to send troops to smash Parihaka and arrest its spiritual leader Te Whiti, the settlers raised their own militia. The Republic of Hawera fizzled out after a couple of weeks, when troops arrived to launch an assault on Parihaka. The 1966 Encyclopedia of New Zealand has an interesting article on the Republic here.

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