Horizons to question TPPA deal process

Regional councillors have followed in their Palmerston North counterparts' footsteps by registering their concerns about a contentious international trade deal.

While there was a 15-to-one vote at Palmerston North City Council, a casting vote was needed to split a deadlock at Horizons Regional Council.

Yesterday Horizons councillors voted five for and five against a motion that a letter be sent to Prime Minister John Key, requesting that the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement be opened up to Parliamentary debate, including a select committee, before it is signed.

Under New Zealand law the TPPA, an agreement between 12 countries including New Zealand, can be ratified by the Government without the need for a vote in Parliament and without the details of the deal being made public.

Cr Rachel Keedwell said if the treaty was ratified without going before a select committee or before Parliament, "that's not democratic".

If the treaty was considered by Parliament and a select committee than there would be a chance for it to be "fully scrutinised" and for the public to have its say, she said.

She proposed the motion after a deposition from academic Sue Pugmire and Manawatu Standard photographer Warwick Smith, who described themselves as "concerned citizens".

Mr Smith, who was supported by about a dozen members of the public, said there had been a veil of secrecy around the TPPA and the only details that available about its contents had come from leaks.

Cr Murray Guy said he was "philosophically against" making a decision without the full information.

Cr John Barrow said he did not want to go to the Government and say it "got it wrong" when the council did not know what was in the agreement.

Cr Pat Kelly said he accepted the need for negotiations to occur in secret but the community was concerned about the contents of the TPPA and he believed the deal should be able to be debated in Parliament before it was signed.

He voted for Cr Keedwell's motion as did councillors Colleen Sheldon, Paul Rieger and Rod Pearce. Voting against were chairman Bruce Gordon and Crs Barrow, Guy, Gordon McKeller and Bruce Rollinson.

Cr Gordon had to use his casting vote. While he had voted against, as he was comfortable with how the TPPA process was being handled by the Government, he said he could not see a harm in allowing a letter to be written to the prime minister and the motion was carried.

Manawatu Standard