TDC seeks 'positive benefits' from TPPA

SARAH DUNN
Last updated 13:00 07/03/2014

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement has drawn passionate opposition at a Tasman District Council meeting.

A 16-year-old Nelson girl, a retired doctor and a woman who spoke on behalf of Green MP Kevin Hague were some of nearly a dozen members of the public who yesterday outlined their concerns.

The council decided to support the agreement subject to it providing "net positive benefits" for Tasman and New Zealand.

The TPPA is a free trade agreement proposed between 12 Asian and Pacific countries, including New Zealand and the United States..

The issue sparked protests in Takaka and Nelson last year. Following a move made by the Auckland Council, the Nelson City Council passed a resolution on July 18 encouraging Government to conclude negotiations in a way that provided "net positive benefits" for both Nelson and New Zealand.

Tasman councillors passed an almost identical version of the NCC's resolution yesterday, gaining a round of applause from the packed audience.

Its 13-point amended resolution covered many aspects of the TPPA's expected impact on local and national democracy.

Mayor Richard Kempthorne said the council's conditional support focused on ensuring New Zealand's position maintained or enhanced the benefits it already enjoyed as a trading partner.

He said he had already contacted Trade Minister Tim Groser about the council stance and the minister had responded that the Government was already taking into account the aspirations the council had identified.

Nelson College for Girls student Raven Maeder, 16, spoke as the co-founder of the Nelson Youth Climate Action group. She said the TPPA would limit New Zealand's ability to increase environmental protections and negatively affect future climate change.

Measures to shift consumers away from fossil fuels would face significant challenge if the TPPA was ratified, she said.

Motueka man Greg Rzesniowiecki read out excerpts from a leaked chapter of the TPPA which deals with the environment. Speaking for a climate change group named The Renewables, he said if the agreement was ratified, it could result in weakened or "frozen" environmental regulations in favour of foreign corporations; an undermining of public health measures in area such as the plain packaging of cigarettes; attacks on Pharmac; and an increase in costs associated with the protection of intellectual property rights.

Concerns about the secrecy with which the TPPA has been negotiated drove an amendment requested by deputy mayor Tim King. The resolution initially included a clause asking that the TPPA be negotiated with "real public consultation" which included regular public releases of drafts of the text, but Mr King argued that this was unrealistic.

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His amendment requested that the TPPA be referred to a parliamentary select committee process that allowed adequate time for public submission.

Councillor Judene Edgar suggested a further amendment which asked that ratification of the TPPA be conditional on a full social, environmental and economic impact assessment.

Councillor Martine Bouillir said she hoped the passing of the resolution would encourage other councils around New Zealand, citing widespread concern from the public.

"For me, this is a statement of self-determinism from Tasman and it is sending a message to central government whether they listen or not."

- The Nelson Mail

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