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Maori challenge trade deal in the Waitangi Tribunal

Monday 14 March 2016 | Published in Regional

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WELLINGTON – Maori claimants are lining up to challenge the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in the Waitangi Tribunal.

An urgent inquiry is to run all this week in Wellington.

The Waitangi Tribunal will hear nine claims from more than 20 claimants, challenging everything from the consultation process to the deal’s economic benefits.

The claimants will look to the tribunal to make an all-important call – will provisions in the trade deal protect their interests?

One claimant, Mana Movement leader Hone Harawira, said the answer was no.

“The TPPA is not in the best interest of Maori and it was not introduced in consultation with Maori.”

Mr Harawira estimated fewer than five Maori would have seen the agreement before it was signed.

Another claimant, Mataatua District Maori Council chair Maanu Paul, said the government had overstepped its authority.

“I am saying that the government has no mandate to commit Maori to an international contract because Maori have never ceded their sovereignty to the Crown.”

Paul said he had expert witnesses, including economists who would “destroy the myth” that the TPP would provide huge economic gains.

“They have virtually plucked a figure from the air, cut it in half and said ‘this is the benefit’ which is full nonsense.”

The government maintains its position that a special clause in the TPP preserves the Treaty of Waitangi and that nothing in it will prevent the Crown from meeting its obligations to Maori.

Even if the tribunal agrees with the claimants’ cases, the Crown can choose to ignore the findings.

- RNZ