4 Aug 2015

TPP group vows return to Waitangi Tribunal

9:41 am on 4 August 2015

A group of Treaty claimants who failed in their bid to stop Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations is going back to the Waitangi Tribunal.

Lawyers for the claimants had asked for an urgent inquiry into the Crown's actions, and for negotiations to be stalled until all Treaty claims had been resolved.

The Waitangi Tribunal is hearing arguments on whether it should hold an urgent inquiry into the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations.

The Waitangi Tribunal has rejected arguments that an urgent inquiry into the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations be held. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

They said the TPP undermined the guarantee under the Treaty that Maori could exercise their sovereignty in decisions that affected them.

But in a decision made on Friday, before TPP talks stalled, the Waitangi Tribunal said it was unrealistic to hold an urgent meeting, as a TPP deal was imminent.

Negotiations have since been delayed, with a new round of talks expected in a few weeks.

One of the lawyers for the claimants, Kathy Ertel, said the group would again go to the Waitangi Tribunal this week to call for an urgent meeting.

"The previous application was actually about stopping the TPP negotiations, whereas now we're looking at the process," she said.

"That's how much input Maori should have in the ongoing negotiations from this point on, under the Treaty of Waitangi."

Claimants include Moana Jackson, Hone Harawira, Angeline Greensill and Moana Maniapoto.

Ms Ertel said they wanted Maori to be brought into the Crown's confidence, rather than having a deal made in secrecy.

In its decision released yesterday, the Waitangi Tribunal said it was not convinced there was a proper basis to intervene in the final stage of the TPP negotiations.

"We therefore decline urgency on the terms sought by the claimants," it said. "We go on to consider, whether there may nonetheless be grounds for an urgent hearing of these claims as and when the text of any final agreement becomes available."

But the Tribunal said if negotiations went beyond the United States election in 2016, it would revisit the question after a further hearing.

Ms Ertel said the decision was not exactly what the group was looking for, but it gave them "a lot hope that this issue is very live with the Tribunal".