Upper Hutt City Council votes to make the city New Zealand's first 'TPPA free zone'

An anti-TPPA rally held last year marches along to Parliament along Lambton Quay.

An anti-TPPA rally held last year marches along to Parliament along Lambton Quay.

It may only be a political statement, but Upper Hutt has been declared "a TPPA-free zone" anyway.

The Upper Hutt City Council voted 7-4 on February 24 to adopt resolutions promoted by anti-Trans-Pacific Partnership activists.

Its decision on eight recommendations came after a vote  on resolutions the policy committee  had deferred to the full council.

 They included the declaration that Upper Hutt City Council was "a TPPA-free zone where the constraints imposed by the TPPA, and the changes to national and local legislation to make our area comply with the TPPA requirements are not supported by the Upper Hutt City Council".

Mayor Wayne Guppy opposed the resolution, arguing that Local Government New Zealand had issued a statement which suggested the trade agreement would have very little impact on local government.

He said the resolution was simply a political statement and would have no impact.

"I've always been in favour of the TPPA," Guppy said.

"It's about supporting our exporters, and helping businesses to create jobs."

Guppy acknowledged there were a few passionate TPPA opponents at the meeting.

"But there are 42,000 other people in Upper Hutt who like me want to raise the GDP of this city and make sure our exporters have access to more markets."

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"Our doors are open for business regardless of what some councillors voted for last night."

Trade Minister Todd McClay slammed the council's decision.

"This is very short-sighted and must be extremely worrying for the Upper Hutt business community," McClay said.

"Their council is telling 800 million potential consumers that Upper Hutt's doors will remain closed to these export opportunities."

He said the TPPA would not change the ability of government, including at local level, to fulfil its core functions.

"I am surprised that the council has not tried to be better informed."

Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce chief executive Mark Futter also expressed disappointment in the council's decision.

"We are stunned that one of our city councils has adopted a purely political stance against a central government trade agreement," Futter said.

"This decision could undermine opportunities for future business investment, particularly foreign investment into Upper Hutt, as Upper Hutt may be perceived to be seen as a non-business friendly city, with an activist anti-trade Council that makes controversial decisions on a whim."

Councillor Angela McLeod was the mover of the council resolution.

She said she was sticking up for Upper Hutt against international corporate interests.

"We have to err on the side of caution because I don't want any decisions about my community to be hog-tied because somebody is going to take us to the tribunal using the [investor-state dispute settlement process]," she said.

Taxpayers' Union spokesman Ben Craven said councillors should stick to delivering quality public services "rather than wasting their time entertaining ideas for which the council has no mandate.

"When Councillors stick their noses into the business of central government, it suggests that they're overpaid or don't have enough work to do."

How they voted:

For: Deputy Mayor John Gwilliam, Mary Armour, Paul Lambert, Glenn McArthur, Angela McLeod, Hellen Swales and Dave Wheeler.

Against: Mayor Wayne Guppy, Blair Griffiths, Dean Rabbitt and Steve Taylor.

 - Upper Hutt Leader

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