Source: Professor Jane Kelsey.

The Government has given the Waitangi Tribunal just three weeks to produce its report on a claim brought by prominent Maori that the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement violates the Crown’s obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi.

Law professor at the University of Auckland, Jane Kelsey, says the Government suddenly announced it is fast-tracking the report date for the select committee that is compelled to consider the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

The Government has brought that date forward from the end of May to May 4. Professor Kelsey says the move is designed to “stymie” the Waitangi Tribunal’s TPPA report.

“Why the government suddenly announced it is fast-tracking the report date for the select committee considering the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) from the end of May to 4 May is now clear.

“It gives the Waitangi Tribunal three rather than seven weeks to produce its urgent report on the claim brought by prominent Maori that the Agreement violates the Crown’s obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi,” Professor Jane Kelsey says.

The claim was:

  • lodged in July last year
  • urgency was granted in November
  • the hearing was held in mid-March
  • final submissions were presented last Wednesday.

The Tribunal focused on two questions in the urgency hearing: the Crown’s engagement with Maori over the TPPA and the adequacy of the Treaty of Waitangi Exception to protect Maori interests.

The Crown has raised the issue of ‘comity’, effectively arguing the Waitangi Tribunal cannot intrude on Parliament’s legislative process.

Last week the Crown told the Tribunal that the select committee will now report on May 4 and legislation will not be introduced before May 9, which moves the previous deadline of the end of May forward by three weeks.

The TPPA claim is complex with many thousands of pages of documents and very technical legal argument from three legal experts.

Professor Kelsey says: “The government is squeezing the Tribunal’s capacity and confidence to deliver under these conditions, with implied threats to judicially review the report hovering in the background.”

According to the Professor, there is no other reason to expedite the process: “The earliest the US Congress will consider implementing legislation is during the lame duck period after the presidential election in November.

“The government needs to stop this gaming of the process, and revert to the original time line,” Professor Kelsey says.

Selwyn Manning, BCS (Hons.) MCS (Hons.) is an investigative political journalist with 23 years media experience. He specializes in reportage and analysis of socioeconomics, politics, foreign affairs, and security/intelligence issues. Selwyn has extensive experience as a commentator and has provided live political analysis to a wide range of television and radio organizations broadcasting in New Zealand, Australia and globally including the BBC (Five Live, London) and BBC (World Service). He is currently a correspondent to Australia's FiveAA radio, and is a regular live-on-air panelist on Radio New Zealand's The Panel with broadcaster Jim Mora.