Protesters fear heavy burden
A protest organiser dragged a "millstone" behind him as he led more than 100 people in a Nelson protest against a controversial trade pact.
Graeme O'Brien's cardboard rock represented the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Free Trade Agreement (TPPA), a controversial agreement that New Zealand may yet agree to join.
The TPPA is planned to be an extension of an existing trade agreement between New Zealand, Singapore, Chile and Brunei that could eventually cover most of the Asia-Pacific region and include the United States.
Opponents are concerned about the secrecy surrounding the deal and its potential ramifications, including reduced restrictions on foreign investment, the ability of overseas companies to sue the Government over claimed lost investment value, more expensive medicines, tougher copyright laws, a ban on parallel importing and increased powers to foreign banks, insurance companies and money traders.
In a speech to the crowd after the protest march from Miller's Acre to Trafalgar Square, O'Brien congratulated Nelson and Tasman residents for the way they had ensured both councils adopted a resolution that encouraged central government to conclude TPPA negotiations in a way that benefited New Zealanders.
"We are no longer at the beginning but, unfortunately, we are not at the end, either," he said.
He said the TPPA threatened many aspects of life that were valued by Nelson and Tasman resident.
O'Brien listed the purity of the natural environment, the ability to choose food and know its origins, and the purchase of affordable medicines as key points of interest.
"Whatever the outcome with the TPPA, I want to be able to show my daughter that I tried my best to protect her and others from what I consider a step closer to corporate colonisation of our country and serfdom of the people."
Greg Rzesniowiecki, of Motueka group The Renewables, encouraged protesters to sign their names to a petition which would later be presented to Nelson MP Nick Smith in a request for his support. The petition had around 80 signatures by midday yesterday, and called for central government to adopt the same 12-point resolution as Nelson and Tasman councils.
Representatives from the Green Party and New Zealand Nurses Organisation showed their support at the protest, as did Labour MP Maryan Street.
She emphasised the importance of New Zealand's pharmaceutical management agency Pharmac, which may come under threat if the TPPA is ratified, and criticised the secrecy under which negotiations were carried out.
"We don't have any more information than you do about this."