Treaty Minister appears before the Māori Affairs Select committee

By Maiki Sherman

A claim has been lodged with the Waitangi Tribunal by a group of Māori over the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

The claim was lodged today with the Tribunal by a group including Dr Papaarangi Reid, Angeline Greensill, Moana Jackson, Moana Maniapoto, Hone Harawira, Rikirangi Gage.

They represent a number of organisations including those who oppose StatOil and oil exploration generally, Pharmac and others.

They are asking for an urgent hearing into their claim.

The crux of the claim alleges the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi are being breached through the government's actions in negotiating the TPPA.

They claim the agreement undermines Māori autonomy under the Treaty of Waitangi.

Given it's only just been lodged, it will still be under consideration.

As a way of background to the TPPA, it's essentially a trade agreement between a number of countries including New Zealand, America, Australia, Japan, and a number of others, looking to enhance trade among those countries.

The biggest warning from those who oppose it is how all of the discussions and negotiations have been done in secret, which is why they want an urgent hearing from the Tribunal, given the TPPA is not far away from being signed.

To other political issue, Chris Finlayson appeared before the Māori Affairs Select Committee. He was there to discuss his Treaty Negotiations portfolio.

As you might expect, he was quizzed over iwi Rights of First Refusal (RFR). It's been a contentious issue following the situation in Auckland regarding Right of First Refusal issues there with Ngāti Whātua and others over the housing scheme.

The government's been hammered over Rights of First Refusal but Chris Finlayson is hitting back.

Despite iwi crying foul claiming the Crown breached its good faith provision, the Minister wasn't having a bar of it.

Finlayson says, “I think there is no issue about that at all.”

Willie Te Aho says, “They're not acting in good faith with Ngāti Whātua, Why else would Ngāti Whātua put up their hand to say this is wrong?”

When Finlayson was told by our Te Kāea reporter that some iwi would disagree with him and that iwi have mentioned in press releases that good faith was breached, he responded saying, “Well there have been a lot of, you know, a lot of people bust into print before they talk to the crown.”

The opposition say that's rich coming from the government.

Peeni Henare says, “The government has broken that sacred covenant with iwi. Today it's housing, who knows what it'll be tomorrow”

However, that's debatable given Ngāti Whātua and Waikato-Tainui are wanting to seek clarification via the courts around Right of First Refusal.

A move the Minister says is pointless given the complexity of the legislation. 

Finlayson says, “I frankly don't think when you go to court seeking a declaratory judgement, it's got to be on an agreed set of facts, otherwise it has to be an ordinary court proceeding and I don't think there are any particular modes of transactions that are agreed upon.”

So despite talks that all is rosy, the matter remains unresolved.