Northland Regional Council REJECTS all submissions on GE, asking the NRC to include a precautionary GE provision in our new RPS





Regional council says no to most GE views

  • Lindy Laird
  • 18th May 2013

Northern Advocate

Despite receiving 314 submissions calling for genetic engineering precautions in the Regional Policy Statement, Northland Regional Council has rejected them all.

The only submissions accepted out of 316 on the subject are the two supporting NRC's own position, to keep the GMO issue out of the region's overarching policy and planning document.

One of them belongs to small Northland-based group Farmers of New Zealand Inc, high among whose ranks is Ian Walker - NRC councillor and chairman of the powerful Regional Policy Committee. The other, accepted in part only, is from Federated Farmers.

The 314 rejected submissions are from Northland iwi authorities, Far North and Whangarei District Councils, Northland Conservation Board, community groups and individuals.

Whangarei District Council Deputy Mayor Phil Halse said he is appalled at the regional council's stance.

"We have all members of three district councils agreeing on taking a precautionary stance and to be let down by the region's environmental watchdog is highly disappointing," Mr Halse said. "We as councillors are elected to represent our people. I find it absolutely amazing that the environmental council won't listen."

GE Free Northland chairperson Zelka Grammer said that group was also shocked. "There is only one local organisation whose submission on GE has been accepted - bizarrely, the submission lodged by Councillor Ian Walker's organisation, Farmers of New Zealand," she said.

"This is a disgrace. (Mr) Walker, as the chairman of the NRC Regional Policy Committee, was instrumental in getting rid of the council's precautionary GE policy in the draft and proposed RPS, despite huge community support for the council's precautionary policy in the RPS Discussion Document 2010.

"There has been inappropriate personal and political intervention in democratic process here in Northland in an attempt to undermine the valuable environmental protection role of the NRC," Ms Grammer said.

The report's author, Michael Payne, said none of the 314 submissions raised new points or provided evidence the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act's own management regime was inadequate. His report acknowledged the public's high level of concern.

Three independent commissioners, Alan Watson (chairman), Brent Cowie and Dave Serjeant, will oversee the submissions hearings starting next week. They do not have to accept the council's recommendations.




quote from Whangarei District Council (transcribed from conversation with WDC Deputy Mayor Phil Halse, 17 May 2013)

"Whangarei District Council is very disappointed to hear that over 314 reasonable submissions on the important GE issue have been rejected by NRC.  These submissions requested that GMO land uses be included as a significant issue in the Regional Policy Statement and either objectives, policies and methods be included in the RPS, addressing this... or...a precautionary statement be included adopting a precautionary approach to the risks from outdoor use of GMOs.

Northland territorial authorities, who cover the same geographical area and ratepayers as the NRC, have identified GMOs as a serious issue for this region, our biosecurity, farmers and other ratepayers, and our environment.  The NRC is a full member, along with every council from south Auckland to Cape Reinga, in the innovative "Inter Council Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation & Management Options"

WDC will be submitting on this decision by the NRC during the upcoming hearings on the proposed RPS.

NRC's decision to reject over 314 reasonable Northland submissions on the GE issue, while only upholding NRC Clr Ian Walkers organisation "Farmers of NZ" submission (on GE) is an extremely poor decision by the Northland Regional Council. Frankly, the analysis by the NRC is deeply flawed and misrepresents the situation in Northland.  The ICWP on GMOs recently collaboratively independent collaborative section 32 analysis on GMOs comes up with the opposite conclusion than the NRC