Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Protest fears put cork in TPP ministers celebration lunch at winery

A celebration lunch for TPP ministers at Villa Maria winery on Thursday was cancelled. Photo / Nick Reed
A celebration lunch for TPP ministers at Villa Maria winery on Thursday was cancelled. Photo / Nick Reed

A celebration lunch for TPP ministers at Villa Maria winery on Thursday was cancelled at short notice because of concerns protesters could breach security and invade the premises.

Ministers were to have been secretly ferried out to the restaurant in Villa Maria's idyllic country setting near Auckland Airport after signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

But suggestions on social media in the morning that ministers might be heading there forced its cancellation because of security concerns.

Lunch was instead provided at the SkyCity conference centre in central Auckland where the signing took place.

Various roads around the city were being blocked by protesters at the same time so there was no guarantee the minister could have got out to the winery unimpeded anyway.

Trade Minister Todd McClay would not comment on the Villa Maria lunch but a spokeswoman said: "For the convenience of the visiting dignitaries it was decided to change the lunch plans to a restaurant on site at SkyCity."

The wine industry will be one of the clearest winners from TPP if it is ratified in two years, with an estimated $10 million in tariffs to come off the $839 million of wine exported to TPP countries.

Villa Maria founder Sir George Fistonich said this week that the debate on TPP had been too emotional and political.

"I don't think a lot of people really go to the history of the sorts of situation and what it means to employment and what is means to our exports," he told RNZ. "We are a country that is totally reliant on our exports."

Debate over the TPP continued yesterday with the executive director of Export New Zealand, Catherine Beard, saying Maori were among the biggest beneficiaries of the TPP through tariff reductions.

NZ tends to do well out of trade deals because our biggest exports (dairy, meat, fishing, forestry, horticulture) also tend to face the largest tariffs.
Catherine Beard, Export NZ

Maori had 40 per cent of fishing quota, 10 per cent of kiwifruit, 30 per cent of lamb production, 36 per cent of forestry, and 10 per cent of dairy production.

"While no country that is party to a multilateral trade deal ever gets 100 per cent of what they want, New Zealand tends to do well out of trade deals because our biggest exports (dairy, meat, fishing, forestry, horticulture) also tend to face the largest tariffs."

Referring to some claims that Maori weren't properly consulted over the TPP, she said exporters would have liked more transparency and consultation.

"But we understood that there needed to be some confidentiality amongst negotiators in order that they got the best deal they could for New Zealand."

Mr McClay released a letter yesterday he sent to the Iwi Chairs Forum defending the Government's consultation with iwi.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade had engaged with Maori through a number of mechanisms, in addition to the wider stakeholder activities. For example, Mfat had:

Attended the Federation of Maori Authorities Conference in 2014 and 2015 and the Maori Fisheries Conference in 2015;

Engaged with a number of Maori businesses and Maori export economy representatives in 2013 to 2015.

Mr McClay said that this month and next the Government would conduct hui for iwi in the Far North, Auckland, Rotorua, Christchurch and Wellington to explain the outcomes of TPP and to help Maori businesses prepare for the new economic opportunities.

- NZ Herald

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