Otaki alarmed about the TPPA

Penny Gaylor chairs TPPA meeting, with Greg Rzeniowiecki and Phil Malpas in front
Penny Gaylor chairs TPPA meeting, with Greg Rzeniowiecki and Phil Malpas in front

Greg Rzeniowiecki  from Motueka was the main presenter at the December 9th meeting on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement in the Memorial Hall. Greg has been working full-time in the lower North Island helping groups in their approach to local councils about the TPPA.

This Agreement is being negotiated in secret by 12 Pacific rim countries. These include the US, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Viet Nam and New Zealand. It is mainly about investment; about how to make it simple, seamless and profitable for transnational companies to invest  throughout the region. Greg pointed out that local bodies in their  procurements would not be able to give favourable treatment to local contractors or not-for-profit groups. If a Council was to change its regulations, to protect the environment for instance, it could then be sued by a transnational company which thought their profits could be reduced.

There are presently hundreds of these legal cases in progress in the world costing an average of $8 million each to defend. They are adjudicated in secret off-shore tribunals and there is no right of appeal.

Viola Palmer, retired GP focussed on the likely effects of TPPA  on health. She said that the Smoke Free Environments Act had had a huge beneficial effect in discouraging smoking and reducing heart attacks, lung cancer and emphysema. If TPPA had been in place in 1990 this Act would probably not have been passed. The threat of being sued by Big Tobacco would have been enough to scare the government off. 

Pharmaceutical companies would like PHARMAC, the government’s drug buying agency , out of the way, as it impedes their profits. If the Government trades away PHARMAC there will be a considerable increase in costs for medicines.

Phil Malpas from Otaki outlined the ad hoc way in which profits from trade through TPPA had been assessed. The Government’s projected trade benefit of $5.5 billion by 2025 is disputed on close analysis. An investigation by Professor Bertram from Victoria University showed that $1.25b was a more likely figure. Only 25% of the $5.5b could be substantiated by sound economic analysis.

Jean Kahui from Frack Free Kapiti pointed out that getting permits to frack was easy in NZ. Much of Taranaki is covered by these. Fracking releases the gas radon which is toxic she said. Under TPPA fracking would become almost unstoppable. It is contrary to New Zealand’s recent promise to reduce carbon emissions. 

The meeting served to raise awareness about the TPPA which is being secretly negotiated by our Minister for Trade Tim Groser. Local group Kapiti TPPA Concern has approached KCDC to adopt a 12 point statement which would make the TPPA acceptable to the citizens of Kapiti. A petition to Council can be signed at the Otaki CAB.

The meeting was ably chaired by local councillor Penny Gaylor and attracted an audience of 43.