Anti-TPPA Protest Draws Small Crowd

Anti-TPPA Protest Draws Small Crowd

Dog Holds A Sign He Can’t Read

The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) was the subject of another student protest last week, this time taking place on the Union Lawn.

The protest was the largest University of Otago activist event in 2015, attracting around 100 people.

The protest, organised by leader of the Otago Students Against the TPPA, Tyler West, followed a number of recent activist events including the anti-TPPA march that turned violent in the Octagon in August. Despite obvious frustration in the crowd, last week’s campus protest remained calm.

West, referring to the number of protests against the TPPA over the last few months, stressed that Otago students are “not alone in this”.  

The crowd came equipped with various signs bearing slogans such as “Mini bar [Trade Minister Tim] Groser, you’ve got mail. Aotearoa is not for sale”. Groser is leading New Zealand’s negotiation of the TPPA.  

Otago Polytechnic Students’ Association advocate and events manager, Mark Baxter, said the TPPA was “not simply a trade agreement”.

 Baxter said the TPPA will disadvantage many New Zealanders, increasing the prices of a wide variety of goods, such as medicine. Baxter went on to warn of the ideological ramifications if the trade agreement is signed: “TPPA was a way of locking the country into right-wing politics.”

One protester said the anti-TPPA rallies had brought many different people together. He said the TPPA has reflected the “interconnectivity between our causes. Those who you least expect are showing up on the picket line with you.”

Scout River, a member of the Stop Cuts to Mental Health Campaign, warned of the impacts to mental health issues, namely the likely increase in the price of pharmaceuticals.

The New Zealand government currently uses the drug-buying company Pharmac to subsidise medicine. According to River, Pharmac’s ability to subsidise pharmaceuticals would be destroyed, driving the price of prescriptions up from $5 to $200.

Three police officers were present at the protest, including Campus Cop Senior Constable John Woodhouse. Two of the officers left as the crowd remained mellow.

Woodhouse said he supported the right to protest the TPPA: “I celebrate and encourage the democratic right to a peaceful protest.” 

“I would be remiss if I was not there in my capacity of campus cop,” he said.

After the rally, the crowd marched from the Union Lawn to the Clocktower chanting “TPPA no way” while waving flags and signs.

This article first appeared in Issue 26, 2015.
Posted 11:48am Sunday 4th October 2015 by Bridie Boyd.