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Tribunal Criticises Crown’s Treatment of Treaty Partner

Tribunal Criticises Crown’s Treatment of Treaty Partner

On Monday 3rd August, claimants received the decision on whether the Waitangi Tribunal will grant an urgent hearing on the Trans-Pacific Partnership applications for an urgent hearing.

The Tribunal sees the scope for “significant prejudice to Māori” and made the comment that the Crown treats Māori as “domestic stakeholders, not Treaty partners”.

The Tribunal will hold a hearing on the claims and claimants are grateful that the Tribunal has acknowledged the importance that these issues have to Māori, and to all New Zealanders.
The Tribunal wants to have the text of the agreement available before the hearing, and this will only be released to the New Zealand public, once the deal is done. Because of this the Tribunal decided not to hold a hearing straight away, but to wait and see whether a deal was reached in the coming month.
Importantly this decision was made before the deal fell through in Hawaii.

If the TPPA is concluded at the end of August or start of September, as the Crown says it will be, then the Tribunal will hold a focused hearing as soon as the Crown releases the text of the TPPA. This will be focused on whether the Treaty of Waitangi exception protects Māori, and what Māori engagement is necessary prior to ratification of the TPPA.

The Tribunal said that if the TPPA is not concluded and still delayed until after the 2016 United States presidential elections, the Tribunal will hear from parties and will likely hold a full hearing without receiving the full text. In this situation it is possible the Tribunal will order the Crown to supply the text to them confidentially so they can assess how prejudicial it may be for Māori.

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The Tribunal agreed with claimants that there is a strong case for an urgent hearing following release of the text of the TPPA because the TPPA is substantially different from previous free trade agreements and because the confidentiality requirements of the TPPA negotiations are self-imposed by the New Zealand government.

Ms. Maniapoto, one of the principal claimants, states that “the Tribunal has made some very strong statements about the need to review the Crown’s actions and the need for Māori interests to be protected when the Crown wants to legitimise deals like the TPPA, which have been negotiated behind closed doors and with scant regard to engagement with Māori”. She also observed that “despite Minister Groser’s belief that this debacle will be completed by the end of August that again seems highly unlikely, so a full Waitangi Tribunal is almost inevitable”.


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