Maori leaders dismiss TPP at Northland hui

By Alexandra Newlove

Placard and loud hailer-wielding protesters gathered outside yesterday's TPP roadshow in Whangarei. Photo / John Stone
Placard and loud hailer-wielding protesters gathered outside yesterday's TPP roadshow in Whangarei. Photo / John Stone

Northlanders delivered on being the most raucous opponents to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, during a Government jaunt to Whangarei to promote the deal.

Inside yesterday's hui, organised for Maori leaders by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, discussion quickly turned to issues of sovereignty and historic Treaty of Waitangi abuses. From outside, the now-familiar cry of "TPPA no way" could be heard over a loud hailer from a group of anti-TPP activists. Pacific economic development ambassador and former Labour MP Shane Jones facilitated the hui at Whangarei's Distinction Hotel, saying afterwards it was the most contentious of the nation-wide series so far.

"Without a doubt [it] was more raucous than in other areas. But no-one who engages with Maoridom will be surprised by that." Mr Jones said the TPP would benefit Northland Maori, who were reliant on export industries like fish, honey and forestry.

One of the most contentious TPP provisions is the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism, which will give overseas corporations a stronger right to sue the Government for introducing laws that could harm investments.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson attempted to assure the hui special clauses in the TPP protected the Crown's Treaty of Waitangi obligations from the ISDS.

"This mean other countries cannot tell us what our Treaty [of Waitangi] means," he said.

Aorangi Kawiti, of Ngatiwai, countered that the TPP had already made a mockery of the Crown-Maori partnership.

"We were not consulted. We were not considered, and the thing was signed... How do you sleep at night?" she said.

Catherine Murupaenga, Ngati Kuri, also said the clauses meant little, given the Government interpreted the treaty as it suited.

"[Maori] are going to lose out because the Government controls that interpretation," she said.

Mr Finlayson responded saying interpretation issues would be dealt with through the courts, as they had been in the past. "[And] to suggest that because something is done with mandated negotiators behind closed doors, it's somehow secret and conspiratorial, I'm sorry, it's wrong," he said.

TPP opposition extended outside hui walls, where about 30 placard-wielding protesters gathered on Riverside Dr.

Among them, Paul Doherty said what could be done to stop the agreement being ratified remained "a good question", following its signing on February 4.

"The great thing that Maori are leading this resistance. They know what loss of sovereignty feels like," Mr Doherty said.

- Northern Advocate

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