In 1985, a dispute over nuclear ship visits led the United States to formally suspend its security guarantee to New Zealand under the trilateral ANZUS Treaty. In this article, I conceptualize this dispute as a case of intra-alliance opposition by a small state toward its stronger ally. I generate four hypotheses from the literature on alliances in international relations to explain why New Zealand chose to oppose its ally on the nuclear ships issue. Using new evidence, including interviews with 22 individuals involved in the dispute and content analysis of debates in the New Zealand parliament from 1976 to 1984, I conclude that a desire for greater autonomy in foreign policy was the driving factor behind New Zealand’s opposition.
This article examines the applicability of theories of agenda setting developed by John W. Kingdon in the American political context to two of New Zealand's most path-breaking and far-reaching policy changes: the passage of the Treaty of Waitangi Act in 1975, which established the Waitangi Tribunal, and the subsequent amendment to that legislation in 1985, which widened its powers. While the three factors identified by Kingdon as being pertinent to agenda setting, problem recognition, changes in the political stream and the role of visible participants, provide the background for these two significant policy changes, the particular characteristics of the New Zealand politico-institutional system, identified in Buhrs' and Bartlett's work on environmental policy making in New Zealand, are necessary to account for the way in which Maori sought to draw government attention to their concerns via protest activism. These movements were able to create conditions that enabled the government to overcome the constraints posed by previous policy and embark in a new direction. Notions of path dependence are utilized to provide a fuller account of the second policy change.