New Zealand: Maori elder issues TPP ‘veto’

Kingi Taurua, a prominent elder of the Nga Puhi, an iwi (naiton) of New Zealand's Maori people at Te Tii Marae, Waitangi, North Island, has sent a formal "notice of veto" of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement to the embassies and trade departments of its proposed partner countries, and has requested that the Queen of Great Britain intervene on the issue. The document cites the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi and the 1835 Declaration of Independence of New Zealand, and states that the New Zealand government does not have "due authority" to sign the TPP without the agreement of Maori elders, "which [agreement] has not been given." Taurua claims that the TPP would be void in respect of New Zealand's involvement as a result, and should not be signed. Release of the document sent by Taurua, entitled "Notice of Non-Assent to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and Exercise of Constitutional Power of Veto in Respect Thereof," came just a day before the TPP was due to be signed in Auckland on Feb. 4 by leaders from countries around the Pacific.

Taurua also declared that New Zealand Prime Minister John Key was not welcome in Te Tii Marae, where he and other government officials were due to appear on Waitangi Day, Feb. 6—after the scheduled signing. Key skipped Waitangi celebrations for the first time as prime minister in response to the controversy.

In the document, Taurua "requests and requires" the Queen to intervene and act as "Protector" of New Zealand from "attempts on the sovereignty of our Independent State" by "overseas corporate interests." At least one other elder has also signed on to the document.

The document invokes the Declaration of Independence, which was signed by Taurua's ancestor, Pareha of Ngati Rehia. Another ancestor, Te Kemara, was a signatory of the Maori version of the Treaty of Waitangi. Last year the Waitangi Tribunal, which adjudicates on issues concerning New Zealand's indigenous people, found that Maori did not cede sovereignty when they signed the Treaty of Waitangi. Taurua is asserting power to veto the trade agreement under this sovereignty by descent, or tino rangatiratanga. The Declaration of Independence, which was approved by King William IV and ratified by the British government, states that Maori elders would gather at Waitangi each autumn in order to regulate trade. (, Feb. 9; BBC News, Feb. 4; NZ Food Security, Feb. 3)