TPPA Local Government Campaign
Well-Beings, War-Makers And Pirates – Te Waka a Maui Rides The Storm
- Greg Rzesniowiecki
We of TPP Action are varied and diverse in our towns, cities and regions. What we lack in experience we make up with enthusiasm and conviction. We are creative. We love Aotearoa – New Zealand. We love the Earth. We trust you agree? For TPP Action, there's plenty of potential to grow. The idea spreads to new fertile places, the seed is pregnant – it grows, matures and recycles creating anew. We assert our common sense. We spread the TPPA policy gift from Auckland. The idea is born, it merely needs to be spread and comprehended. Experience help us navigate the field we work in and adjust our tactics and methods to gain the necessary traction. We are not pioneers; plenty have shone a light on the path we tread.
This TPP Action and the “TPP Roadie” is an exercise in gaining traction and building a movement whose ultimate intent is the rule of our State by principles of quality public administration and humanistic social philosophy. In this instance we concentrate on Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations whose object is an international trade, services, and behind the border regulations, treaty settlement in the Pacific region. Thus far we have made inroads and managed to somehow escape mainstream media attention. How did we do this?
We have gained the support of two major councils with our TPPA resolution. We have the added weight of the struggle with the Wanganui District Council (WDC) which determined to delete from their TPPA policy decision the key 12 points of the policy that define the public interest to be protected. Politics is the game of possibilities and governance. We grow aware and adept in our incursion into the public policy domain. The game is real world chess. Any who do well at chess might have the technical ability to be strategic politicians. Passion and philosophy assist. The heart and mind well combined might allow wisdom to gain a seat. As we engage in the game and offer a divergent view we attract attention. Those supporters of this FTA agenda cohere and organise resistance to the dissemination of our idea. We meet obstacles. We meet determined resistance. At the close of my previous TPPA local government campaign report we were awaiting Wanganui Council's decision. I then continue with the story in our southern lands (see Watchdog 136, September 2014, http://www.converge.org.nz/watchdog/36/03.html, for Greg’s first report on this campaign, and for the 12 point resolution on the TPPA that the campaign is asking all local bodies to adopt. Ed.).
Wanganui District Council Lobby
The recommendation from the WDC Risk and Assurance Committee (RAC) on July 15th to adopt our TPPA policy went to the full Council on July 29th. Here the recommendation met organised resistance. The Councillors who initially walked out (at the Council’s June 19th meeting), denying a quorum, now had worked on a few of the less staunch. These were our supporters at the earlier RAC. Ultimately the Council adopted an amendment that deleted the 12 points of the TPPA policy formula electing to: “Encourage the Government to conclude negotiations on the TPPA and free trade agreements in a way that provides net positive benefits for the Wanganui District and New Zealand'”(2).
This was supported by seven votes to four. It placed some of our supportive Councillors in the invidious position of voting against this seemingly innocuous platitude. Another way for them might have been to support the remit, perhaps stating for the record “that the 12 points are needed to define the public interest”. It is important to understand the psychology of campaigns. The Wanganui decision might have been a let down for the campaigners. Some who become dejected leave the field. Our experience provides understanding of the psychology of acting in this real political game. We become stronger as we grow and support each other.
There is a need to keep sometimes flagging spirits focused. More support equals greater buoyancy in the movement. It is common sense. The larger the number of people involved in the organising groups, the more the load is spread and the more pleasant the task. Enjoying ourselves in the work we do creates space for us to develop a positive culture in our activism. We civilise as we go forward. It is serendipitous that Councils are offering for comment their “significant engagement policies” for public consideration (3). I intend writing a general letter soon expressing a view. The positive in this is that Wanganui District Council joins the group of Councils that adopt a TPPA policy formula. We acknowledge it is not as comprehensive as we would like.
Otago And Southland And The War To End All Wars
August was a big month for the TPPA resolution campaign. I addressed the Invercargill Youth Council on August 6th. These youngsters managed to get through a big chunk of material on TPPA. They were brilliant and their questions showed they were into the TPPA subject. It is hardly surprising these young adults are engaged individuals. Their presence on the Youth Council is acknowledgement. I started with the 2:22 minute video off the It's Our Future site (4) and then spoke from a lengthy script which provided a detailed explanation. I later provided the Council with a copy of the presentation. I was to return later in the month to address the Invercargill City Council's public forum. Invercargill and Southland have a striking feel. Their wildness is suitable for those of faint heart only for brief excursions. The staunch and resilient Scots and other early pakeha settlers turned forest to pasture, erected churches and other monuments. Many of these tell of a tragedy. At the heart of every town, and sometimes just a spot in a field by a fence on the side of the road is a marker of the dead loved ones from the war that commenced 100 years ago. The war to end all wars.
War, Trade And TPPA
During that period from late August I based myself in Dunedin. On the way south to speak to the Youth Council, I halted Tinkerbell in Milton to fill her diesel tank. It was 10:45a.m.; across the road an occasion was on the cusp of unfolding. Picture a war memorial in the background and 200 white crosses hammered into the park's ground in six rows forming an arc. The people filled the spaces in between the deliberately staged scene. We are in the southern heartland and Brian Cadogan, Clutha District Council Mayor and fine orator, shared his perspective. “We are gathered to mark the centennial of the first embarkation of Kiwi warriors” - my addition – “to fight in another man's war half a world away. Lest we forget”.
Brian talked of freedom and democracy. He offered that he was at the Clutha Youth Council the night before and that, if the casualty statistics that Aotearoa/New Zealand faced a century ago in dead and wounded were applied, half of the Youth Council would be missing - dead or severely injured'. Such was the sacrifice made by them that came before. For God and King and Country. Lest we forget.100, 000 Kiwis went, 18, 000 dead, 44,000 wounded. From our then population of one million Kiwis. Numbers volunteering were insufficient. Some were conscripted. Organised murder? Lest we forget. As I've travelled I've sighted earlier memorials, to the Boer War, and in a couple of places to the pakeha that fell in the New Zealand Land Wars. One was on the side of St Mary's Anglican Cathedral in New Plymouth. For God and King and Country. Lest we forget all of our war dead. There has been much blood spilled on this land, of our sons on other lands and there still is! It once was for the New Zealand Company. Is it now NZ.Inc.? Lest we forget, indeed.
I waited till the RSA service at Milton was concluded before approaching the Mayor. I waited at a respectful distance and engaged when offered an opportunity. I introduced myself by name and asked Mayor Cadogan for a copy of his speech. I told him I had found it stirring. If he had given it to me, you would be reading it now. He said: “I had one prepared, however when I arrived and saw the scene my heart stirred, and you heard the result'” (my paraphrase). Seeing further opportunity and aware that the Clutha Council meeting was on the coming August 14th, I offered that I was from the Renewables from Motueka, and had earlier in March written to his Council about TPPA. Brian said that he didn't know a lot about the TPPA, however he had been in Nelson recently and seen our TPP Action presence at the Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) Conference. “My friends discussed the TPPA during one morning tea at the LGNZ conference”.
I offered to provide the Council with a presentation. He shared that “some of my fellow Councillors might not be happy. It doesn't hurt to hear what is on offer”. A letter by email to the Council's democratic services staff saw an appointment for five minutes of the Council's public forum time. The drive this time, August 14th, from Dunedin to Clutha was markedly different to the last time. Horizontal snow and sleet, a white wilderness greeted the traveller on the quest to bring our TPPA light to the Otago heartland. I was met with polite silence by the Councillors after I concluded my presentation. Mayor Cadogan offered in response that we had placed the TPPA firmly on the Council's radar, thanking me. From this I conclude that we must talk to all in New Zealand. Public interest includes everyone.
Christchurch City Council Decision
The big story that day was up Highway 1 with the Christchurch City Council (CCC). Our TPP Action warrior Gen de Spa, presented to the Council's Public Forum soon after the 9:30 a.m. commencement of the full Council meeting. We had previously presented to Christchurch Council on April 24th. We tabled our petition, calling them to adopt our TPPA policy. Council referred our TPPA issue and the policy recommendation for report, to a future meeting (5). Gen's public forum presentation and the Council's later discussion and decision are available for view on the Council's website (6).
The Council considered the TPPA matter later in the afternoon. It supported our TPPA policy unanimously, and recommended that LGNZ adopt it also (7). They refused our earlier suggestion to include the TPPA, in their election manifesto. Thank you to the Christchurch City Council. Christchurch used to lead the country with its opposition to things like the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI, the forerunner of the TPPA, which was defeated in the 1990s) when it wore the title “The People’s Republic of Christchurch” with pride. But things had slipped in recent years (see Watchdog 121, August 2009, “Obsolete! Christchurch City Council Quietly Scraps Its Progressive Foreign Investment Policy”, by Murray Horton, http://www.converge.org.nz/watchdog/21/03.htm). So it’s very encouraging that the CCC is rediscovering some self-respect. Ed.
Dunedin City Council Decision
Dunedin TPP Action was not going to be left out of the chess game and had been gathering their forces. We made a presentation to the Council's Economic Development Committee at the end of July. This contributed to Council's decision to place the TPPA on the agenda for its full Council meeting on August 18th. We had a group of supporters and a short space in the Council's Public Forum. TPP Action in Dunedin is led by Jenny Olsen. She, along with Gill Caradoc-Davies, a retired medical officer; Gail Marmont, National Council of Women; Rosemary Penwarden, from Oil Free Otago; and Professor Alan Mark from Wise Response, presented in the public forum.
Council later considered a report on the agenda, prepared by Council staff (8). It is important for those making an attempt on their Council in respect to TPPA or any matter, that for the issue to be determined by Council, it must be placed on the formal agenda. Council were then motivated to consider the matter for at least 40 minutes. Debate was strong and finally determined in a close vote to support our TPPA policy (9). These two decisions provide us with a strong position on the political chess board. Consider the size of the populations represented by the South Island Councils who support our TPP policy formula. We now have supportive councils representing a majority of South Islanders. Maui from the Waka, must reel in the North (10).
Southland, Where Invercargill Reveals A Key
These activities appear in bursts. The following day saw me present briefly to the Southland Regional Council. The reception was polite; however the majority seemed happy for me to leave without accepting our TPPA gift. It is good to know the shape of the board. Scouting far from home is fun, one day a pawn, the next a queen :) I presented to the Invercargill City Council's (ICC) Public Forum on August 20th. We were asked to stand as his Worshipful Mayor Tim Shabolt entered from the rear of the Council Chamber, and made his way forward. We were encouraged to remain standing as he took his place at the head of the Council table and proceeded to read “the prayer” before Council. This prayer's last line invokes the “Sacred Trust of Government” in cautioning those present of the standard to apply when deciding the public fate. This evoked within me the sense of the ancient tradition in which we participate. I invoked that same Key “the Sacred Trust of Government” when I later had my turn to speak. We enter the realm of the King.
Preceding my public forum presentation the Council's attention was taken with a number of presentations of a social policy nature. The issue of smoke free and the banning of cigarettes from public outdoor spaces was a hot issue in Invercargill. ICC staff and coincidentally the Youth Council mentor Mary Napper, was reported that day in the press about the Youth Council's policy recommendation to create a smoke free public outdoor space. Two representative Youth Councillors presented to the Council on this policy, prior to our TPP Action spot in the queue.
My written presentations to both Invercargill and earlier to the Southland Regional Council were similar. My oral presentation was an exploration of the subject of the TPPA, and especially with ICC, I drew out the question of the Four Well-beings, stripped from the Local Government Act of 2002 (LGA). The well-beings in the LGA purposes outlined the responsibility of Councils to provide for the social, environmental, economic and cultural well being of the community, town, city and district or region. The removal was opposed by individual Councils, LGNZ, and the Human Rights Commission (HRC). The HRC stated that they saw no evidence in response to central Government's assertion that the four well-beings were inefficient or led to irresponsible spending.
On the cusp of the Christchurch City Council decision, TPP Action was provided with a cache of documents that highlighted some of the history of Council involvement in the free trade and investment agreement (FTA) agenda. CCC in the 1990s came to the conclusion that the FTA agenda was injurious to public benefit and made representations to LGNZ, to Government and wrote to all Councils, alerting of these findings. CCC are not only heroes now. In the late 1990s they researched the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), found it distasteful, adopted an attitude of opposition and wrote all Councils that they do likewise. This was one of the many elements of pressure then applied internationally to rid the world of MAI. The final blow was when France, the repository nation for the negotiating documents, (as is New Zealand with the TPPA) “pulled the agreement'” in the face of unrelenting public opposition (11). Please note the MAI returns uglier in TPPA guise. We know what we have to do. Let’s get on.
Wellington Absolutely Positively The Heart Of The Land?
I arrived in Wellington a day before the August 27th presentation to Wellington City Council. TPP Action Wellington, led by Ariana Paretanganui-Tamati, had invited me across the Strait to participate in their presentation. Wellington TPP Action's Sam Wilmer-Provan presented Council with a petition requesting Council adopt our TPPA policy formula. I followed addressing the question of the Four Well beings, their theft and the free trade agreements agenda. It was a busy day in the city and social policy and cultural matters were the concerns dominating that public forum. Absolutely Positive Wellington Awards going to long serving a philanthropist for his work, including as chair of the NZ Community Trust for six years. Also an award to the Musical Island Boys, who have just won the gold medal at the International Barbershop Quartet in Las Vegas for a goose-bump inducing performance of “Now Is The Hour”. We were a little underwhelming in the face of the competing interests of that day. TPP Action has gained the support of many Councillors. Wellington City's Green Party Councillor, Sarah Free, has agreed to champion our TPP policy through her Council Chamber. We encourage other Councillors to take similar roles in their Councils. There are many already who have assisted our policy in its passage to date, thank you.
Wellington Region Councils: Hutt, Upper Hutt, Porirua And Kapiti Coast
Our ambitions whilst in Wellington go beyond the Wellington City Council (WCC). We imagine the other metropolitan councils - Hutt City Council (HCC), Upper Hutt City Council (UHCC), Porirua City Council (PCC), Kapiti Coast District Council (KCDC) and the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) will welcome and be enthusiastic at our approach. We followed up the presentation to the WCC with a presentation to the GWRC Risk Assurance Committee on September 18th. Our suggestion that Council adopt our more extensive TPPA policy as an advance on their 2013 policy decision was deferred for the moment. Chair Fran Wilde wrote that “Council sees no reason to alter its view at present”. The present remains for a moment; then becomes the past.
We made a substantial presentation to the Hutt City Council's City Development Committee on October 16th. We were supported by a few locals. Our presentation, item 3a on the agenda, is on the Council's Website (12). Here we met another disruptive event. The recommendation on the agenda paper is by the Deputy Chair; “that the matter be discussed”. I'd finished answering a number of questions and Council were moving to discuss the report when Councillor Max Shierlaw, who had been a late arrival, rose to address a procedural matter. He asserted that Council could not discuss a presentation without first gaining a report from Council staff. He asserted this on the basis of Council's Standing Orders. Upon review of said Standing Orders I found he was in error, and realised that his intent was to stop the discussion by any means. He feared the mood of the Committee was veering toward assent to our TPPA policy. We have since corresponded with Council and actively await their next move.
Hamilton; Raglan; Parihaka Pa Hui
The opportunity to attend the October 18th and 19th hui at the Parihaka Pa grew from an earlier expedition to Hamilton, Raglan and New Plymouth in late September. Holding meetings and sharing with people is a wonderful way to grow our idea. We must do these ourselves as the mainstream media refuse to cover our campaign in many cases. This is blatantly obvious in Hamilton when we attended a public meeting organised by the Hamilton Residents and Ratepayers’ Association. The issue of pensioner housing is a hot one in Hamilton and a meeting was convened for September 27th at the Aged Concern Centre.
The first half of the well attended meeting was taken up with hearing the pensioners’ fears about their homes’ threatened sale by the Council. This is a common theme in New Zealand's local government sector. CAFCA/Watchdog/Keep Our Assets Canterbury supporters will appreciate the similar cancer in many regions of our land. The second half of the meeting of 60 people was given to hearing my report on our TPPA campaign and the inroads we are making in gaining Councils’ support for our TPPA policy. The meeting supported that we request presentation time with the Hamilton City and Waikato Regional Councils. Our initial attempt by personal contact and email has been rebuffed, however we will return.
Mainstream Media - Misrepresentation By Omission
The press coverage of the public meeting was interesting in that the Waikato Times on the Monday following devoted its entire front page to it. The pensioner housing issue was all over the paper, but not one word of the TPPA. The reporter covering the story was keen to make a report. He had run a story the previous Tuesday announcing our meeting. Falsehood by omission is as bad as a blatant lie. Following this I trekked to Raglan on the Monday evening to join their inaugural planning meeting for the November 8th TPPA rally. The Tuesday saw Tinkerbell and I in New Plymouth to report on our TPPA local government campaign. This meeting is where I met Rawinia who invited me to come to the next monthly 18th and 19th hui of the Parihaka Pa community, in October. Parihaka is special for Aotearoa/New Zealand and the global peace and justice movement.
TPP Action Meets With MFAT
TPP Action met with the Trade Negotiations Division (TND) on October 9th. To place this into context, late 2013 saw the Renewables’ Joanna Santa Barbara and I each write to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) in respect to the TPPA. Arising from my further engagement, an offer was made by the Trade Negotiations Division for a briefing in the event that I was in Wellington. Well I was in Wellington, why not? The meeting was limited to one hour. We prepared questions which were forwarded by email prior to the meeting. TND also requested prior notice of attendees which we furnished. We were only allowed written note taking. No recording devices were used by our team.
TND were represented by David Walker, Deputy Secretary at MFAT; Brad Burgess, Deputy Chief Negotiator; also two policy analysts; Frances Brockie and Liese Galvin. David Walker did all the talking for MFAT. TPP Action representatives were Ariana Paretanganui-Tamati from Wellington; Antony Maddock and Leon Salter from the Hutt, Viola Palmer from Otaki, and Pamela Nunn from Porirua, along with me. We are still assembling the final report and findings from this encounter. We presented a list of nine questions in advance and took copious notes of the TND responses. I will outline the outcome of this in detail elsewhere. Our first question was: Will there be any opportunity for the New Zealand public to alter clauses in the signed agreement arising from the Select Committee process? The answer is no.
And the answer to this question: What specific measures in our attached TPPA policy will not be upheld by MFAT in TPPA negotiations? David Walker answered “that they would not be able to release the text prior to signing and tabling”. My personal sense of it is that “on face value they appear to be desirous to do a good job”. The question for me is against what measuring stick? Their indication that they didn't appear to have a big issue with our TPPA policy, suggests that we do well to continue our efforts and get our standard mandated around the nation.
In this way we have contributed to the preparation of public for the lobby/campaign on the Parliamentary Select Committee process once a final agreement is signed off by the negotiators. TPP Action will engage to ensure our TPPA policy standard is understood. Where the TPPA signed agreement compromises our policy, we work to ensure it is rejected. We are aware that a political decision could be reached that usurped the negotiating mandate originally settled in the Honolulu round of negotiations of 2013. This was referred to by David Walker as the mandated object for negotiations. Copies of the outlines (13) and other background material are available directly from the MFAT Website.
Each nation that enters the TPPA negotiations is asked to adopt an agreement in respect to the handling and secrecy of the negotiating documents. NZ is acting as the repository for the TPPA documents (14). This helps to explain the reluctance to mutiny and gives the Kiwi public an early look at the Christmas turkey. Partners agree to keep their documents secret and will not release negotiating documents until four years after the collapse of negotiations or an agreement is reached. Of course, once agreement is reached, the respective nations will use their constitutional processes to determine whether they formally assent. Here New Zealand will have an opportunity to read the final agreed text and the National Impact Assessment that is required by Cabinet rule 7.112. We will be present to witness the content of the TPPA truce that settles the current game of chess.
Wellington TPP Public Meetings
Wellington TPP Action hosted a meeting to inform the public about TPP on October 28th. Ariana facilitated and Bill Rosenberg, Council of Trade Unions’ Economist, and Sarah Free, author and Wellington City Councillor, addressed the enthusiastic and engaged participants. We followed that with another in Upper Hutt on the next evening. These meetings draw in community members to our TPPA policy campaign. We plan more for Porirua, Kapiti and Lower Hutt.
November 8 TPPA Rallies
10,000 people marched against the TPPA in 17 cities and towns across the country on November 8th (earning lead item coverage on both major TV networks’ news that night). In Wellington the organising committee decided to hold the rally in Civic Square rather than the traditional Parliament grounds and steps. The reason is the TPP Action focus on local government. Our TPPA policy campaign grows in strength and influence.
Appeal “TPP Roadie”
Donations to this initiative to lobby local government with the TPPA policy can be made to the following bank account: NBS, account number 031354 0295461 016, reference “TPP Roadie”.
Greg Rzesniowiecki aka gregfullmoon resides at large, originally from the Motueka Valley. He has assumed varied roles in the past, both here, and across the ditch in his native Melbourne and Australia. He has come to call Aotearoa/New Zealand home. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org