18 Nov 2015

Māori doctors want answers over TPP

4:24 pm on 18 November 2015

It is not too late to take a stand against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Māori doctors say.

Te Ohu Rata o Aotearoa (Te ORA - the Māori Medical Practitioners Association), is deciding whether to take action on its own or wait for the Waitangi Tribunal's upcoming hearing on the deal.

The government had said Māori rights would be protected under the TPP signed in September, but many Māori doctors and medical students were not convinced.

Te ORA chairman Rawiri Jansen said it was not too late to take an interest.

"The New Zealand public has had a relatively short period of time to actually see an incredible amount of detail so it is time right now to get advised about what's in the current text," Dr Jansen said.

A group of 120 Māori medical practitioners and students met in Palmerston North for the organisation's conference, which ran from Thursday to Sunday.

Hawke's Bay GP David Tipene-Leach said many were worried.

"Are we going to end up paying more for our drugs? That's really important. That's a major issue for us and it's one that we should rightly be involved in."

He said the other main concern was bigger than health but encompassed health - and that was the Treaty of Waitangi.

"To be able to keep the Treaty of Waitangi to the fore of documents like this."

Te ORA deputy chairperson Kiriana Bird said she had serious concerns about the TPP.

She said there was a level of anxiety around the deal, especially for Māori medical students.

"I think it can have the potential to have a huge impact for Māori. But not just for Māori but for plenty of the indigenous populations around the world."

Waitangi Tribunal hearing ahead

The Waitangi Tribunal has granted a group of claimants challenging the deal an urgent hearing, which is expected to take place early next year.

Dr Jansen said senior members of his association had to decide whether to pre-empt that.

"The process of the negotiations and the secrecy around it, [and] the risks that it may hold in terms of environment and in terms of pharmaceuticals, were called out.

"We will watch the Waitangi Tribunal case closely."

Te ORA also vowed at its conference to throw its support behind finding solutions to climate change, and paving the way for Māori to govern statistics relating to Māori.

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