John Key says he's going to Waitangi to push the TPPA - welcome or not

Source: 1News

Prime Minister John Key says he will attend Waitangi commemorations this year despite a spokesman for Te Tii Marae saying he's not welcome if the TPPA is signed.

Prime Minister John Key has been warned by Te Tii Marae spokesman Kingi Taurua he'll be unwelcome at Waitangi if the TPPA is signed in New Zealand

Mr Key told NZME  he saw the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement debate as an important one to win for his government, and said he would promote its merits at Waitangi.

"The opportunities that come from a trade deal like TPP are at the core of what we are about as a Government, which is international connectedness and greater opportunities for our people," he said.

It has now been confirmed that ministers from the 12 countries involved will attend the signing of the TPPA in Auckland on February 4.

However, Ngāpuhi kaumātua Kingi Taurua, who is a spokesperson for Te Tii Marae where national Waitangi commemorations are held, has said Mr Key should not be welcomed at the marae on February 5 if the TPPA is signed.

Mr Taurua said a lack of proper consultation with Māori had left them in the dark.

"It's underhanded, and has been since the agreement was made to now," he said.

The Prime Minister is usually welcome at the marae, but some years have seen protests over a variety of issues.

"If it were me, if I could influence others, I'd tell them to reject the government," Mr Taurua told Te Karere.

"Why should they be allowed to visit when they are actively rejecting the contract that we'd be discussing?

"It benefits the big companies, the government and exporters - it's great for them, but we don't reap the benefits from it."

Labour's Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis says the best approach is for Mr Key to be welcomed on to the marae for a rational discussion - but is also critical of the government's handling of the TPPA negotiations.

"What they're asking Māori to do is just to take their word for it and trust in the government," Mr Davis said.

But Mr Key is sticking to his guns.

"I suspect the people who are vehemently opposed are, broadly speaking, opposed to free trade agreements because the arguments they have put up have been proven to be incorrect," he said.

"It doesn't matter how many times we say Jane Kelsey is actually wrong, in the end she doesn't want to believe she is wrong, and the people that follow her don't want to believe that."

Trade Minister Todd McClay yesterday responded to criticism of the benefit of the TPPA to Maori, saying there was nothing in the agreement which contradicts the Treaty of Waitangi.

He said Maori assets worth over $40 billion were oriented toward the export economy.