(NZ) Spy base ready for new dome

Work is underway to replace the sabotaged protective dome over a satellite dish in the Waihopai Valley.

Sickle-wielding peace activists deflated one of the balls at Waihopai Spy Base on April 30 last year. It's been uncovered ever since.
The white rubberised material protects the interception satellite dishes at the spy base.

The base is run by the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).
The satellite dish was this morning parked facing the sky with ropes slung over it.

GCSB deputy director corporate Hugh Wolfensohn confirmed the satellite dish was in the "parked position" in preparation for the erection of a new dome, known technically as a radome.

The dome would be placed over the satellite dish when wind conditions in the valley allowed the work to continue.

The day after the attack, the bureau said the dome would be replaced at a cost of $1 million to the taxpayer.

Yesterday, Mr Wolfensohn said he could not say exactly how much the new dome cost but he confirmed that $1 million wasn't far off the mark.

"That estimate is still generally valid."

Asked if any measures had been taken to prevent a repeat of last year's attack, Mr Wolfensohn said the new dome was the same as the one it replaced.

"It's a one for one replacement. I'm not going to comment on security measures."

After the attack last year, GCSB director Bruce Ferguson said activists had "totalled" the dome, causing fatal gashes around two-thirds of its perimeter.

He said the dome was made of rubberised material that was very heavy and thick.

"It's a bit like a very strong inflatable boat."

It is inflated to two PSI (pounds per square inch) above atmospheric pressure and designed to protect the satellite from the weather not hide the direction that the satellite is pointed, as has been popularly believed.

Mr Wolfensohn said the satellite dish's antennae had not been damaged by exposure to the weather over the past year as a "a number of engineering and technical measures" had been taken, but added: "We want to get it covered before additional exposure reduces its operational life."

He said before the dome could be replaced an approval process involving, both the past and present prime ministers, had to be followed and insurance matters had to be sorted.

Auckland-based Dominican friar and Catholic priest Peter Murnane, Hokianga farmer Sam Land and Otaki organic gardener Adrian Leason all deny charges of unlawful entry and wilful damage in relation to the deflation of the dome.

All three men were members of the Ploughshares peace group, which takes its name from a biblical proverb about turning weapons into ploughshares.

Their trial will be held in Wellington rather than Blenheim at a date yet to be set.

A protest is organised annually by peace activists, who say Waihopai provides intelligence to the Pentagon and is New Zealand's most important contribution to the United States military network.

SEE ALSO http://www.openureyes.org.nz/blog/?q=node/1858