RMA changes threaten fight against GMOs

"RMA changes threaten fight against GMOs"

9 July 2013  Northern Advocate

by Lindy Laird
Northland individuals, groups and authorities who have fought to protect their backyard from GMO threats may yet find they have won a battle but lost the war if the Resource Management Act (RMA) is changed.

Environment Minister Amy Adam came out recently in support of changes to the RMA that could exclude local government having a role in managing GMO (genetically modified organism) risks. Her comments drew fire from the Auckland and Northland-wide Inter-council Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation and Management. Other groups have said that in threatening to shut down local authorities' efforts to protect their territory, Ms Adams was undermining local democracy.

Inter-council Working Party convenor and Whangarei District Council Futures Planning manager Kerry Grundy said although the Government holds that GMOs were most appropriately controlled under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms ACT (HSNO), local authorities were still entitled to plan their own cover, ``provided that this action meets the relevant requirements of the Resource Management Act 1991.''

Dr Grundy said should the RMA be amended, more pressure would come on the national regulator, the Environmental Protection Authority, to take into account local government controls on GMOs.

``When, and if, this occurs, councils on the Working Party will be in a position to continue the process of changing their planning documents to address the concerns of their constituents,'' he said.

Labour's Environment spokeswoman Maryan Street said ``the rookie'' Ms Adams has taken on a fight in threatening to stifle local will and in downplaying major public concerns about the possibility of locally produced food being GE-contaminated.

``Amy Adams should be working with regions such as Northland, Auckland, Hawke's Bay and the Bay of Plenty which want to protect their reputation for their quality produce, not threatening them with legal restraints,'' Ms Street said.