Thursday, February 19, 2015

The TPPA and the Recolonisation of Aotearoa


The first peoples of any country will forever remain distinct from those that follow as they will be the only people who will be shaped by the unique environment that they had to adapt to. When Maori settled here around 800 years ago they had to survive in a country quite different from the islands they had migrated from. Maori technology and culture developed from having to learn how to sustainably prosper using the resources available and with many harsh lessons and fatal mistakes along the way. There will be no other people who will experience Aotearoa in its original state or be shaped in the same way through living on this land.

When the Prime Minister suggested that Maori would be grateful for the technology and capital brought through colonisation he did not recognise how reliant those first European settlers were on the local knowledge and skills of the first people. For decades Maori provided the newcomers with food from their extensive gardens, taught them how to use the natural resources and guided them around the country they knew so well.

Maori recognised that there were potential benefits from trading with Europeans and adopting new technologies and encouraged some to settle on their land. The numbers of settlers arriving in New Zealand grew faster than expected and it was clear that there were issues around governance. While it was Maori land that the new people were living on they did not always recognise Maori laws (or tapu) and lawless behaviour was common. James Boultbee recorded his travels around the south coast of the South Island in the 1820s and stated that he preferred the company of local Maori than the Europeans living there:

"The two white men that were living at Ruabuka (Ruapuke Island) were people of that unprincipled character that I preferred going entirely amongst the natives."

At the time of the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi Maori had a huge dilemma. They had learned much of they they wanted from Europeans, but wanted to have some control over settler numbers and behaviour. More Maori were literate in New Zealand than Europeans (most between the ages of 10 and 30 could read and write), they owned many flour mills and ships and were economically successful.

During the discussions at Waitangi on February 5 1840 a range of views were expressed and debated. Te Kamara of Ngati Kawa did not trust the settlers, he had already lost his land and was only left with his name. If he was to be treated as an equal he would sign the treaty but did not believe that would be the case. Wai of Ngaitawake wanted to ensure that any future trade would be conducted fairly and pleaded for a stop to, "...the cheating, the lying, the stealing of the whites". Tamati Waka Nene of Ngapuhi thought it was too late to send the settlers away and wanted Hobson to remain as a judge and peacemaker.

History has shown that many of the fears expressed by Maori in 1840 did actually result. All the economic benefits that they first enjoyed through the initial relationship with the settlers were eroded away. They lost their ships, their flour mills and their land and did generally become slaves to the colonising economy. Maori then dominated the labouring workforce, they became the shearing gangs the freezing workers and the road and railway workers in the new economy. As jobs became scare it was Maori who suffered most as they had no land to go back to and it is Maori who have disproportionate numbers in our prisons and unemployment statistics. Treaty settlements cannot compensate for the generations of Maori who were forced into the margins of the economy and the loss of sovereignty over their lands and resources.

New Zealand is being recolonised, not by any one culture or country as before, but by outside investors and corporate interests who are tempting us with their modern day baubles and trinkets of capital and investment. As in 1840 it is at an early stage and the influx is still largely under the radar. To outside investors New Zealand represents green fields of economic potential and, as the second easiest country in the world to do business in, we are ripe for the picking. Our control over our resources and economy is slowly being eroded as more and more outside investors and companies move in and get footholds in our major industries; own more of our property; infiltrate our energy supply; and dominate our financial systems.

Like the Maori we see treaties or agreements as a way of protecting our interests but forget that such documents are generally used as tools by larger powers to enable colonisation. The TPPA will likely have two versions, the one we think we have signed (Te Tiriti) and the version that exists in the small print of legalese that can be exploited by well paid corporate lawyers. Once the TPPA is signed we will most likely find that we gave up more power than we expected. If we try to take control back, and stop any damaging exploitation of our resources, we will find that free trade agreements and international laws will over-ride our domestic legislation.

The Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process will likely be part of the TPPA and this will enable corporate interests to protect themselves from domestic law changes that impact on their profits. Over $675 million has already been paid out under US trade agreements alone and around 70% relate to challenges to governments' natural resource and environmental policies. Tobacco companies have used ISDS to challenge tobacco control policies enacted to implement obligations under the World Health Organisation Framework. OceanaGold (which also operates in New Zealand) is using ISDS to claim $300 million of potential lost earnings from impoverished El Salvador. The Australian owned company is claiming its right to a guaranteed profit trumps the provision of healthy water for the El Salvador people.

Under the TPPA it is quite possible that we will lose our ability to use Pharmac to keep prescription prices affordable. Our doctors and other health professionals have sent an open letter to the Prime Minister expressing their concern that we may lose the ability to improve our domestic legislation to meet our health needs. Leaked drafts of the TPPA show there has been substantial pressure applied to negotiators by drug companies.

The TPPA is being decided in secret and the Government is claiming we can trust them to negotiate a good deal. However the spectre of the SkyCity deal is hanging heavy over us at the moment and the failure of this Government to hammer out an economically sensible and socially responsible deal with a gaming company does not fill me with confidence when operating in an international forum against even stronger corporate interests. They also sold us short with their Warner Bros and Rio Tinto deals, their track record is poor.

In a few decades the first people of Aotearoa found themselves over-run and colonised, losing their right to self determination and governance of their land and resources. They became slaves to the new economy and any legal rights they may have had under Te Tiriti were were apparently replaced by new legislation. Economic growth and the protection of the new order was deemed more important than their wellbeing and their historical and spiritual connections to the land. In a decade or so the same may be true for current New Zealanders, our ability to determine how we live and how we use and protect our natural resources will be taken from us via free trade agreements. Corporates and wealthy investors will lead the recolonisation of our country...God Defend New Zealand!



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