DCC adopts position over trans-Pacific agreement

The Dunedin City Council has taken a stance on the trans-Pacific partnership agreement.

By the narrowest of margins, the council adopted a resolution to encourage the Government to conclude negotiations on the agreement in a way that provides ''net positive benefits'' for Dunedin and New Zealand.

The decision was made only when Mayor Dave Cull was forced to use his casting vote after councillors were split evenly on supporting the resolution or not.

A passionate debate on the council's options preceded yesterday's vote and followed submissions from five members of the public, four of whom spoke about their concerns about the agreement's potential effects.

The council has previously received submissions outlining public concern about the multinational agreement and negotiations.

The TPPA is an international treaty negotiation between 12 Pacific nations including New Zealand and the United States that is expected to have wide-ranging implications, including for procurement arrangements, intellectual property, health, investment and market access.

Its possible impacts and the fact negotiations are all behind doors has sparked widespread concern and debate across the country.

The resolution adopted by the Dunedin City Council is almost identical to those already passed by the Auckland, Nelson and Tasman councils.

It includes a detailed list of 12 matters for the Government's consideration on various aspects of the TPPA's expected impact on local and national economy, environment and society.

Cr Andrew Whiley started the debate by moving the council take no further action on the TPPA at this stage, and was seconded by Cr Lee Vandervis, who said too little was known about the agreement.

''Only when we know what is in this beast can we make a reasonable and informed decision about it,'' Cr Vandervis said. 

Deputy Mayor Chris Staynes said a presentation from New Zealand's chief TPPA negotiator, David Walker from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to councillors just before yesterday's council meeting assured him the Government was already taking into the account the aspirations outlined in the resolution, so no response was needed from the council.

Cr John Bezett was concerned the council would be lobbying on behalf of lobby groups and did not want to be setting that precedent.

''There will be plenty of opportunities before this issue is resolved to put your case,'' he said to those who supported adopting the resolution.

Cr Mike Lord also had confidence in the negotiators.

''All I see when I look at this (12-point resolution) is scaremongering.''

Cr Richard Thomson took the lead for the other side saying even though he could not believe a Government would sign something that generated a reaction that could get them ''thrown out'', he was not sure why anyone would not support the points outlined in the resolution.

''It's asking that we understand what we are embarking on and that we not have any substantive rights taken away from us.''

While he was not sure it was the business of local government, it was good for the council to take a position on a bottom line that was important to the community, he said.

Cr Jinty MacTavish could see no problem with taking a pre-emptive position and being proactive as a council, while Cr Aaron Hawkins said the community had come to the council rightly concerned about a treaty being negotiated in their name that they had very little understanding of, and could not understand that anything in the resolution was so abhorrent other councillors would not support it.

Mr Cull said it was because the chief negotiator assured councillors points covered in the resolution were being considered already that he supported adopting it, asking:''... what could be wrong with it?''

Cr Vandervis' motion to do nothing failed with Mr Cull's casting vote used against it.

After the resolution was amended to say the TPPA be referred to a parliamentary select committee process that allowed adequate time for public submissions, it was adopted in a 7-6 vote.

Crs MacTavish, Hawkins, Thomson, Neville Peat, David Benson-Pope, Kate Wilson and Mr Cull voted to adopt the resolution.

Crs Whiley, Staynes, Bezett, Lord, Doug Hall and Andrew Noone voted against it.

Cr Vandervis abstained because, he said, councillors could not know what they were voting for.

Cr Hilary Calvert was not present at the meeting. 

Draft TPPA resolution

This is the draft resolution adopted by the Dunedin City Council yesterday. Some minor editorial changes are to be made.

That Dunedin City Council encourages the government to conclude negotiations on the TransPacific Partnership and Free Trade Agreements in a way that provides net positive benefits for Dunedin, the Otago Region and New Zealand, that is, provided the Partnership and Agreements achieve the following objectives:

i. Continues to allow the Dunedin City Council and other councils, if they so choose, to adopt procurement policies that provide for a degree of local preference; to choose whether particular services or facilities are provided in house, by council-controlled organisations (CCOs) or by contracting out; or to require higher health and safety, environmental protection, employment rights and conditions, community participation, animal protection or human rights standards than national or international minimum standards.

ii. Maintains good diplomatic and trade relations and partnerships for Dunedin, Otago and New Zealand with other major trading partners not included in the agreement, including with China.

iii. Provides substantially increased access for our agriculture exports, particularly those from the Otago region into the US market;

iv. Does not undermine PHARMAC, raise the cost of medical treatments and medicines or threaten public health measures, such as tobacco control;

v. Does not give overseas investors or suppliers any greater rights than domestic investors and suppliers, such as through introducing Investor- State Dispute Settlement, or reduce our ability to control overseas investment or finance;

vi. Does not expand intellectual property rights and enforcement in excess of current law;

vii. Does not weaken our public services, require privatisation, hinder reversal of privatisations, or increase the commercialisation of government or of Dunedin City Council or other local government organisations;

viii. Does not reduce our flexibility to support local economic and industry development and encourage good employment and environmental practices and initiatives like Council Cadetships, COMET and the Mayor's Taskforce for Jobs which enable marginalised young people to develop their skills and transition into meaningful employment;

ix. Contains enforceable labour clauses requiring adherence to core International Labour Organisation conventions and preventing reduction of labour rights for trade or investment advantage;

x. Contains enforceable environmental clauses preventing reduction of environmental standards for trade or investment advantage;

xi. Has general exceptions to protect human rights, the environment, the Treaty of Waitangi, and New Zealand's economic and financial stability;

xii. Is referred to the parliamentary select committee process, allowing adequate time for public submissions.

 

Wish list

Probably nothing wrong with a wish list but I am sure that in reality the way to get "net positive benefits" will be to compromise. Cr Vandervis was the most logical in this debate by abstaining because the details and content of the TPPA are unknown which makes the posturing nothing more than scaremongering.

Council

Why should be the question? Shouldn't council be trying to achieve their core responsibilities rather than wasting time on this, thanks Cr McTavish. The platform for this is a being a politician not a councillor. Please stick to your core functions. More and more business are resenting the council for the work they don't do on simple issues such as more red carpet and less red tape. Where is the Chamber on this? or have they become a part of the council themeselves? The chamber should have a louder voice in advocating for business in the city.

Clear article

This is good reporting from the ODT on what the DCC is doing and why, and what was actually voted on.

It is good to see these issues debated at a local level. Recent decisions at a national level have had adverse affects on Dunedin.

We need the council to stand up for Dunedin. 

 

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