Australasia 1985: Breaking with Britain
As late as 1941, British dominance in Australasia and the South Pacific was unchallenged. By the 1970s this era was over, with Britain joining the European Community and abandoning almost all its remaining colonies. Australia and New Zealand responded by reinventing themselves, revamping their economies, and, in the case of N.Z., adopting a fierce anti-nuclear policy which irritated both the United States and France.
7 Jul 1978 Independence of the Solomon Islands▲
The Solomon Islands is made independent of the United Kingdom, with 35 year old Chief Minister Peter Kenilorea becoming Prime Minister.
1 Oct 1978 Independence of Tuvalu▲
Tuvalu—formerly called the Ellice Islands—gains independence from the United Kingdom, with Toaripi Lauti as its first Prime Minister and Funafuti atoll as its capital.
12 Jul 1979 Kiribati Independence▲
The Gilbert Islands becomes independent from the United Kingdom as the Independent and Sovereign Republic of Kiribati (“Kiribati” is the Gilbertese rendition of “Gilberts”), under 29 year old President Ieremia Tabai. Following this, the United States gives up its claims to 14 islands of the Line and Phoenix chains in the 1979 Treaty of Tarawa.
8 Jun–29 Aug 1980 Coconut War▲
Jimmy Stevens, leader of the separatist Nagriamel movement on Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, leads an uprising against the colonial officials and the plans for independence of the New Hebrides as Vanuatu. With the support of French-speaking land owners and the American-run Phoenix Foundation, Stevens blockades the airport and declares the independence of Espiritu Santo as the “State of Vemerana”. On the request of Vanuatu’s Prime Minister-elect, Walter Lini, Papua New Guinea intervenes, ending the rebellion with only a few casualties.
30 Jul 1980 Independence of Vanuatu▲
The Anglo-French Condominium of New Hebrides (Nouvelles-Hébrides) is granted independence by France and the United Kingdom, becoming the Republic of Vanuatu. The independence process is complicated by foreign owners, who were dispossessed and received compensation in 1979, and the Coconut War over secessionist movements in Tanna and Espiritu Santo.
4 Feb 1985 New Zealand nuclear-free zone▲
In February 1985 New Zealand’s Fourth Labour Government, under Prime Minister David Lange, passed nuclear-free zone legislation, barring nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed ships from entering NZ waters. As the US Navy refused to confirm or deny the presence of nuclear weapons on its vessels, this action effectively banned US warships from visiting NZ. In response, the US suspended its ANZUS obligations to New Zealand, effectively limiting the alliance to the US and Australia. Unperturbed, the Labour Government continued on to pass the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act on 8 June 1987.
10 Jul 1985 Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior▲
In Operation Satanique, French agents detonate bombs in the Greenpeace flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, at 11:38pm and 11:45pm in the port of Auckland, New Zealand, sinking it and killing one crew member. The operation prevents the boat from leading protests against French nuclear testing in Muroroa. France initially denies involvement, condemning what it calls a terrorist attack, but in the following months two of its agents are captured by NZ police, leading to an international scandal and the resignation of the French Defence Minister.