Marches against TPPA trade deal
Thousands took to the streets today to protest against the the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), which organisers say is a secret deal that will threaten New Zealand's sovereignty.
The marches took place in centres across the country in opposition to the free trade agreement proposed between 12 Asian and Pacific countries, including New Zealand and the United States.
Protesters fear if the deal is done it will be harder for the government to look after the environment, promote health and protect workers and consumers.
Hundreds marched down Wellington's Cuba Mall with the rally buoyed by a big band rendition of the Muppet Show, amongst other tunes.
Wellington TPPA Action spokesperson Ariana Paretutanganui- Tamati said the rally would end at Civic Square in a targeted move to push for support from the Wellington City Council to adopt a 12 point TPPA resolution calling on the Government to safeguard their ability to make decisions in the best interests of the public that may arise, or be impacted on, by the TPPA.
Petitions calling on the Wellington, Porirua, Lower Hutt, Upper Hutt and Kapiti City Councils to adopt the resolution were circulated at the rally.
The action is timed to coincide with the meeting of trade ministers from the twelve TPPA countries in Beijing, on the fringes of the APEC meeting.
"People tell us they are really frustrated. They are dead opposed to this agreement, but the government is not listening," It's Our Future NZ spokesman Edward Miller said.
"There are so many reasons why they oppose the TPPA. For some it's the secrecy and assault on democracy that is so offensive."
"Others can't believe that foreign investors and states are being given greater enforceable rights in Aotearoa than Maori have under the Treaty of Waitangi."
The Wellington march was one of 17 taking place around the country as part of an international day of action against the TPPA that includes Australia, Japan, Malaysia and the USA.
In New Plymouth more than 100 people briefly clogged the CBD.
New Plymouth protest spokeswoman Dr Stuart Bramhall slammed the ''secret deal'' for giving companies the right to sue countries if they felt their laws were impeding their business.
She said her biggest concern was powerful multi-national drug companies could cost the country billions if they protest that Crown agency Pharmac's purchase of generic medicines was hurting the sales of their branded pharmaceuticals.
Bramhall said she could not say why the government was pursuing such a deal as everything was being done in secret but it appeared that it would help facilitate exports from New Zealand to the USA.
This was not necessarily good for the country, she said.
''I think the government is being disingenuous. There are some companies that would benefit from trade with the USA. There is a small number that would benefit but the rest would not. The problem is the government right now doesn't do this for the majority. They do things for the good of their business friends,'' Bramhall said.
Without police escort the protesters briefly held up traffic as they chanted and handed out pamphlets calling the TPPA a corporate trap.
Meanwhile, in Timaru, only a few South Cantabrians joined the protest.
Organiser Abbeyrose Neho led 44 people on a march from Timaru's Bay Hill Piazza to the Strathallan corner to protest the deal demonstrators said was unduly secretive and endangered governments' ability to legislate.
Timaru Grey Power president Denise Fitzgerald told the assembled protestors the TPPA threatened the power of government drug-buying agency Pharmac to reduce medicine costs in New Zealand.
The Green Party's Rangitata electorate convener Gerrie Ligtenberg said too little information about the 12 country deal was available, but she believed it would threaten public health policies, workers' rights and agriculture.
Demonstrator Chris Ashton said he believed the TPPA would increase business' ability to due governments in arbitration tribunals if government policies affected their profitability.
Renee Haumu said she was marching to ''keep New Zealand for New Zealanders''.
Neho had hoped about 100 South Cantabrians would march against the deal. Protestor Hayley Tyler said the turnout was disappointing.
''A heap of people said they were too tired.''
Neho said more protests would be planned for South Canterbury against the deal, which has been under negotiation since 2010.