Nationwide protests against Trans-Pacific trade agreement

Peaceful Assembly

Activists from New Zealand organised nation-wide protests in early March against a new Trans-Pacific trade pact that will be signed by its 11 member nations in Chile on 8th March 2018.

The trade deal known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam which together account for around 13.5 percent of global GDP worth ten trillion USD. The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) had to be revised after President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from it in early 2017.

Groups who oppose the deal have raised concerns over the secrecy around it and the lack of public consultation, as well as the possibility it could be used to block the passage of environmental and health laws. They have also raised concerns over the Investor-State Dispute Settlement system which enables corporations to sue countries.

In Christchurch, on 1st March 2018, six activists protesting the above-mentioned trade agreement locked themselves to a train track. The group, supported by 30 others, held banners saying, “Stop the TPPA in its tracks” - 'TPPA Wrong Track” and “Sustainable Economics Now”.

The TPPA action network's New Plymouth co-coordinator Stuart Bramhall said:

"It's not only frustrating that it is going through …because there continued to be a lot of secrecy behind the deal. If the deal was so great then why has there not been more public consultation. Many thought it was not being signed by the new government because Labour had opposed it during the election. Many New Zealanders voted against a failed neoliberal economic model represented by [this agreement]. Sadly that's not what they're getting”.

On 31st January 2018, five Greenpeace activists protesting against oil exploration in the country boarded an offshore supply vessel at Port Taranaki and locked themselves to the vessel. The activists were subsequently arrested and warned that they may face charges under the 2013 Anadarko Amendment to the Crown Minerals Act makes it an offence to interfere with oil exploration ships at sea.

Greenpeace climate campaigner, Amanda Larsson, condemned the arrests saying that:

“This is the oil branch of the Government threatening to use the draconian anti-protest laws passed by the last National Government to stop peaceful protest against oil exploration…It was bad enough that the previous National Government used these laws against climate activists, but the supposedly climate-friendly new Labour Government shouldn’t be threatening climate activists with $50,000 fines and 12 months in jail for protesting the oil industry”.

All five were subsequently released but charged with "unlawfully getting into a motor vehicle" while four of them were also charged with "willful trespass" at the New Plymouth District Court on 1st February.

On 30th January 2018, 50 people gathered at the gates of the Waihopai Station in Marlborough to protest against a government spy base, saying that the base was “working for Trump”. Waihopai Station is part of a network of facilities used by intelligence agencies from the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. There have been protests outside the Government Communications Security Bureau surveillance base for the past 30 years.