The annual Waitangi Day hikoi hit Kaitaia yesterday with the message that protesters do not want the Government to sign the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
Trade ministers from around the Asia-Pacific will converge at Auckland's Sky City on Thursday for the signing ceremony for the TPP, but the signing is set to be the focus of large protest action.
The majority of the 12 nations that agreed to the final shape of the TPP last year have confirmed their availability to sign the deal, but outside the convention centre there will be plenty of people opposing the deal.
The Government says the TPP will lead to billions of dollars worth of economic benefits for the country, and it is being supported by many business leaders, but opponents say it means signing away New Zealand's sovereignty rights.
The TPP is the focus of this year's pre-Waitangi Day hikoi from Cape Reinga.
Every year, a hikoi leaves the cape early on February 1 and arrives at Waitangi on February 5, coinciding with the welcome of the nation's politicians at Te Tii Marae. The chief issue for marchers on last year's Hikoi ki Waitangi was oil exploration, particularly by Norwegian firm Statoil off Northland's west coast.
This year's Hikoi ki Waitangi now includes a Whangarei rally against the TPP. The hikoi left Cape Reinga at 6am yesterday and marched through Kaitaia yesterday afternoon. The hikoi will be in Moerewa/Kawakawa today then Whangarei tomorrow starting at Laurie Hall Park, and Auckland's Queen St on February 4. All marches start at noon. The hikoi will be welcomed at Te Tii Marae in Waitangi at 8am on February 5.
Meanwhile, at least one coach-load of Northlanders will head to Auckland on Thursday to protest the signing of the controversial agreement.
Whangarei TPP meeting organiser Chris Leitch is taking a bus-load of people opposed to join the Auckland rally on Thursday.
"Many people at the four meetings I've held in Whangarei had asked what they could do to show their disapproval of the agreement and the lack of consultation by the government. This is one thing they can do.
"A big turn-out at the Auckland rally is a visible sign of the level of opposition there is to the agreement and the process.
"Many of the people joining me on the coach are people who have never protested publicly in their lives."
Mr Leitch said inquiries are still coming in, so if more people want to join the trip, he will organise a bigger bus. Email firstname.lastname@example.org