Waititi is stung by failure to negotiate a “Tiriti-centric” free trade agreement and is soured by provisions on manuka honey

Buzz from the Beehive

New legislation has been a  feature of press statements from the Beehive over the past 24 hours or so. 

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta introduced a Bill aimed at improving processes for electing councils at the local government elections in 2025 (and citizens should be wary, when the Ardern Government sets about “improving” local government electoral procedures).  The legislation covers issues such as Māori wards, the number of councillors at Auckland Council, more consistent rules for a coin toss if an election result is tied, and filing nominations electronically.  

Broadcasting and Media Minister Willie Jackson spoke in favour of a Bill intended to create a new public media entity, Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media, during the first reading (and citizens should be wary when the Ardern Government is deciding on the structure and the regulation of broadcasting organisations that provide them with the stuff that politically inform them).

Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall spoke of the government’s aims – becoming free of the harm caused by tobacco – after the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Bill passed its first reading.

And Trade Minister Damien O’Connor enthused about “free trade” with the United Kingdom being a step closer with the United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement Legislation Bill having its first reading in Parliament (although “free trade” would not require a document comprising a hefty list of rules and regulations). 

Once both New Zealand and the United Kingdom have completed their ratification processes, the agreement can enter into force.

The government aims to complete this country’s ratification processes by the end of this year.

The Bill which O’Connor is promoting had the support of the Labour, National and ACT parties. 

The Greens and the Māori Party voted against it, although Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi acknowledged that Māori primary producers would do well from the free trade agreement. 

Among Waititi’s objections, the Government has failed to finish up with a Tiriti-centric free trade agreement. 

Let’s think about that. The “Free Trade Agreement Between New Zealand and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” is a hefty document.   

There are 33 chapters and three annexes in its 1700 pages. 

So, what would a Tititi-centric agreement look like?

Perhaps more critically, how much rancour would it generate?

Let’s bear in mind the debates that rage now around politically provocative interpretations of a document containing just three simple articles comprising no more than 400 or so words, according to the English translation of the Maori version HERE   

This document, of course, is the Treaty of Waitangi. 

Damien O’Connor said the government is continuing steady progress toward ratifying the  historic free trade agreement with the UK and having its benefits flowing through our economy.

The elimination of tariffs – almost all of them when the Agreement comes into force – and the new levels of ambition in inclusive and sustainable trade make the UK FTA “a gold-standard agreement”, he said.

That included outcomes for Māori, women in trade, and the environment. 

“It’s one of the best deals we’ve ever negotiated and will boost our economy by up to $1 billion and provide us further economic security.”

The United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement Legislation Bill can be read HERE.

The Māori Party warned it would vote against this bill.  

No, not because Māori primary producers will be disadvantaged. Co-leader Rawiri Waititi says the agreement is likely to benefit them. 

So, what’s the problem?

Well, Waatea News reported him as complaining that Māori weren’t properly consulted during the negotiations.

“We have had an agreement since 1840 with the United Kingdom. It’s called Te Tiriti o Waitangi. We also have another agreement called He Whakaputanga, and none of these documents has been factored in or even been used as an assessment for this particular trade agreement. We are not holding the UK to account to uphold their crown obligation to Te Tiriti o Waitangi,” Mr Waititi says.

He said the Treaty of Waitangi exception clause in the FTA isn’t fit for purpose, observing that – for example – it fails to stop non-New Zealand honey from being sold in the UK labelled as manuka honey

In a press statement, in which Waititi is described as his party’s trade spokesman, he expands on those remarks.  

“This free trade agreement signed between our Government and the UK is yet another failed opportunity to reimagine trade policy and move away from this colonial model that has been imposed on us. 

“Vague statements about how Māori will be better off under this trade agreement is not partnership. It is not Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Once again, tangata whenua have been side-lined and treated as just another demographic the government can tag in their comms.”

Waititi acknowledges that the Māori trade chapter was a first for New Zealand, but he complains it focused only on commercial interests for Māori while ignoring wider concerns about the protection of our rights and interests.

“There are also no provisions to protect mātauranga Māori from exploitation.

 “This is no more evident than when the UK’s Intellectual Property Office denied a trademark for mānuka honey “based on cultural ignorance and culturally inappropriate legal tests.”

Matters become cloudy at this point, but the Aussies could argue – or complain – that Kiwis are cashing in on the honey that is extracted from a tree that blew in from their country.  

According to Wikipedia,

Evidence suggests that L. scoparium originated in Australia before the onset of the Miocene aridity, and moved as a result of long-distance dispersal events to New Zealand from eastern Australia sometime during the last 20 million years. 

Cyclones and other wind activity are most likely responsible for transporting seeds long distances. 

Supporters of this claim cite evidence that the genus Leptospermum arose under conditions where frequent forest fires were common (i.e. in Australia, and not temperate New Zealand), because they possess fire-adaptive traits like serotiny and storage lignotubers. It has been postulated that on arrival in New Zealand, L. scoparium became established in limited edaphically suitable areas until the arrival of the Polynesian people, whose fire and forest-clearing brought about the low-nutrient-status soils for which it was preadapted in its homeland.

It is now more common in New Zealand than it is in Australia. It is found throughout New Zealand but is particularly common on the drier east coasts of the North and South Islands, and in Australia in Tasmania, Victoria, and New South Wales.

Fair enough, “manuka” is a Māori word. 

But what about the “honey” part of the labelling.

If “manuka” cannot be appropriated from Māori, why can “honey” be appropriated from England? 

And don’t forget the role of the honeybees in this industry.  They were introduced into this country by those bloody colonisers (as was noted in this Newsroom report):  

Imported in 1839, honeybees were introduced to pollinate exotic crops and produce honey. New Zealand’s 28 native bee species do pollinate flowers, but do not produce honey. They also can’t be farmed in hives the same way honeybees can.

Indeed, it could be argued that the apiary business is environmentally unfriendly:  

A proliferation of farmed honeybees could endanger native species by taking food sources, disrupting the pollination of flowers and spreading disease.

But back to Waititi’s  press statement:

“This is a missed opportunity to have our first ever Tiriti centric trade policy. Aotearoa could lead the way on indigenous trade policy and intellectual property rights.

“Any trade agreement that is not born of Te Tiriti o Waitangi is not legitimate in the eyes of Te Pāti Māori. We will not be supporting this legislation,” said Mr Waititi.

It seems he is not speaking for Māori businesses, however, because Waatea News has reported:

Māori industries should welcome the NZ-UK Free Trade Agreement, says FOMA Chair Traci Houpapa. The ability for Māori in the Wine, honey and dairy industries will have more cash to pour back into its operations now that tariffs have been eliminated on all exports.

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One thought on “Waititi is stung by failure to negotiate a “Tiriti-centric” free trade agreement and is soured by provisions on manuka honey

  1. The Treaty was a document devised for a specific time and purpose, which was to obtain the agreement in 1840 of as many tribes as possible to the imposition of British sovereignty and law. It is historically interesting but little more than that.

    Liked by 2 people

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