TPPA: How Predictable!

Editor’s note: This is another weekly column in the Wanganui Chronicle.


Thanks for the great feedback on last week’s column. Despite the vindictive image of Wanganui that was encapsulated in the initial response to Duncan Garner’s visit to our beautiful city, there are indeed many thoughtful, reflective and open-minded residents.

I admit that my conservative views do not suit all readers and I apologize for forcing them upon you week after week. I’m the guy who spent four months working on drainage around his house just before we were hit by a once-in-85-year rain event.

Above all else I believe an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you have been brought up on the metric system instead of imperial measurements, here is a translation: 28.3 grams of prevention is worth 453.6 grams of cure. Doesn’t exactly have the same ring to it, eh?

‘Prevention’ has the same type of prefix as ‘proactive’. Even ‘prefix’ has that same…prefix. Any way you slice it, it’s about addressing an issue before it becomes a problem. One great example has been our community’s long and sustained effort to raise awareness about the likely problems that will result if the government signs onto the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

In late 2013 I contacted Chronicle editor, Mark Dawson about writing a piece on the TPPA. He gave the green light and as far as I know it was the first appearance of the secretly negotiated treaty in our local press. Here is what I wrote:


“Fortunately for democracy, some material from the TPPA has been leaked, including a 95-page excerpt published by WikiLeaks in Mid-November. Following that leak, the Herald (14 November, 2013, NZ WikiLeaks Scoop) reported that information in the excerpt includes disputes between New Zealand and US negotiators on issues of internet freedom, industrial innovation, ownership of endemic plants and animals, and, near and dear to my heart, access to affordable medicines.

“From the Herald, ‘A large section reveals the battle between the US pharmaceutical lobby and countries such as New Zealand that want to continue to buy cheaper generic medicines.’

“In order to dissect this sentence we need to know a couple of facts: 1) the utmost duty of a corporation is to return profits to its shareholders; 2) the US – where corporations have used lobbyists to sculpt health care policy – has the most expensive health care system in the world while ranking close to 40th in performance by the World Health Organization; 3) New Zealand health care remains reasonably priced in part due to the ability to bulk buy generic medicines.

“Using the numbers above in a mathematical equation: 1 – 3 = 2. In other words, if pharmaceutical corporations have their way through the TPPA, NZ health care will more closely resemble that of the US.

What this means for Whanganui is that our already strapped health services would become even more so. For example, the funds now available to pay a doctor may have to be shuffled to cover the increased costs of medicines. Along with the dollars vacuumed away, we would lose a valuable human being who lives in our city, owns a home, pays rates, and buys local products. Every dollar associated with that doctor’s salary would be wisked away to New York, San Francisco, or Hartford. We lose, they win.

I reckon it is our democratic duty to do our best to resist corporate influence globally and locally, but we need to do so proactively. Once the deal has been done, it won’t easily be undone.”


Last week the Prime Minister admitted that under the TPPA some medicines would cost the country more. If only he’d read my column two years ago he would have been way ahead of the game!

Without the assistance of a crystal ball I was able to ‘see the future’ because I am a strong believer in research, data, patterns, and evidence-based decision-making. Despite what radicals might think about secret trade deals, climate change, income inequality, and boosting regional economies, I’ll stick to my Ounce-of-Prevention ideology metric system be damned!


Sidebar: March and Rally Today!

1:00 PM. Gather at Silver Ball sculpture at the riverside.

1:15 PM. Rally at Majestic Square.

Holistic Land Management: Permaculture Design in Motion

One year after arriving on this piece of land we are well on our way to developing a premier permaculture property. Like our model suburban permaculture project – the Eco-Thrifty Renovation – we intend to use this as a model for resilience education in our community and worldwide.

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We call this property Kaitiaki Farm. In Te Reo Maori, kaitiaki means guardian. It is the weightiest word I have ever come across in my life, and I do not take using it to name the farm lightly. If our first child had been a boy, Kaitiaki would have been his middle name.

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This extraordinary piece of land has all the makings of a textbook permaculture property and an excellent way to teach best practice in low-input / high productivity land management. It is also a great opportunity for those who want to learn by seeing a ‘work in progress’, I reckon there may be no better place in the world.

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From big concept ideas to specific details, Kaitiaki Farm is a living, breathing permaculture textbook. Most of us learn by doing, so why not consider coming along to the Whanganui Permaculture Weekend 12th-13th September (more details to follow) or coming to a full-day workshop on Sunday, 27th September.

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We believe in offering the highest quality resilience education and that money should not be a barrier to attendance. The Permaculture Weekend is free to attend, and all of our workshops run at half what others charge. When it comes to excellence in community resilience education, there should be no compromise.

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The workshop will cover many aspects of permaculture, including: designing for wind and water; tractoring birds; improving soil structure; composting; swales and drains; nurse trees; slope stabilisation; trees as fodder; pollarding firewood; alley cropping; drought-proofing; market gardening; developing and managing a food forest; scything; and more.

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Peace, Estwing