Senior School TPNW Trip

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The TPN, the NPT, the USA and NZ – OMG!

Olivia Hardie-Neil
Year 13

“The young generation should fight to survive.” What a starkly confronting beginning to one of the most controversial and captivating two days a school trip has ever seen.

On the 18-19th of this past March, a group of Senior School students travelled to Wellington to listen to five amazing speakers discuss the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, or TPNW for short. The first key thing we learnt was what on earth all of the acronyms stood for – the TPN, the NPT, the USA and NZ – OMG right?! Although, all jokes aside, most of what we learned from the first few speakers were acronyms.

Perhaps this new vocabulary was a small testimony to the highly intelligent speakers with incredibly impressive credentials that we had the pleasure of listening to over the course of the two day conference. Expert speakers including Treasa Dunworth, Colin Keating, Dell Higgie, and Kevin Riordan gave informative and interconnected talks about international law and the implications of the TPNW, New Zealand’s role, past events and possible future outcomes of the Treaty.

You may be wondering how interesting a conference about the prohibition of nuclear weapons can actually be to a group of 15 to 17 year olds but wonder no more. We learned more in less than a day of the conference than many people will ever know about nuclear weapons and treaties.

The keynote speaker, Professor Ramesh Thakur, spoke to us about the immediate issue of nuclear weapons. We were shocked to find out that impending nuclear war is more of a threat to life as we know it than global warming, asking the question of why one issue is publicized so much more than the other. Of course the next question was what we as young people can do to truly make a change and help to prevent the issue of nuclear war (this question indicative of the St Cuthbert’s student’s mindset). The answer seemed simple enough – to ‘make our voices heard and be a nuisance’ was imperative to make a change.

After listening to Kevin Riordan share his immense knowledge of international law at the conference on Monday, we walked down to Parliament and were lucky to have Deborah Russell, MP for New Lynn, give us a tour of parliament.

The conference was rounded off with our amazing tour, and we had the privilege to see Jacinda Ardern, along with other party leaders address the tragedy of Christchurch not two days prior. It was an amazing opportunity for all of us: we signed the condolence book and, to round off the global experience, met the Rt. Hon. Helen Clark, not only a former Prime Minister of New Zealand but former Director of the United Nations Development Programme.  We are so grateful to Mrs Rosalind Ali and Ms Libby Giles for giving their time to let us have this experience.