Maori march against MAI

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Maori march against MAI

By Robert Jones

AUCKLAND — A Maori protest hikoi (march) against the Multilateral Agreement on Investment is sending shock waves through official circles in New Zealand.

The 40-strong hikoi has slammed the anti-democratic way in which MAI issues have been sidelined. "Our forefathers fought the physical takeover of Aotearoa ... MAI is the fiscal takeover", a hikoi spokesperson, Wayne Lange, told Green Left Weekly. "It could mean the loss of our independence and our sovereignty."

The hikoi was launched at the far north settlement of TE Hapua — the starting point for the historic 1975 Maori land rights hikoi led by Dame Whina Cooper.

This time, the hikoi is demanding protection for all New Zealanders under the Treaty of Waitangi (1840). "We're one nation, Maori and non-Maori. Two people, one nation", is the way Lange put it.

Maori are angry that the MAI doesn't recognise the Crown's obligations under the Waitani Treaty. This treaty gave the Crown the right to govern in exchange for guarantees to Maori over forests, fisheries and intellectual property rights, Lange said.

He added: "MAI requires the government to settle all treaty grievances with haste, so that when foreign investors come charging in under MAI, there'll be nothing left to stop them getting control of Aotearoa's resources.

"The land is our heritage. If I didn't fight for it I'd be leaving nothing for my children."

The hikoi organisers say MAI is a "government/New Zealand business round table" rip-off. Besides deregulating trade between the 29 participating nations of the OECD, the MAI overrides domestic legislation, including environmental safeguards and consumer and wage-earner protection.

Anti-MAI public meetings have been held in Auckland and Christchurch, and links have been established with similar protest groups in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.