Kaipara's tougher GE stance at risk, say campaigners


Kaipara’s tougher GE stance at risk of being diluted, campaigners say


Local Democracy Reporter


GE Free Northland chairwoman Zelka Grammer wants councils to take a tough stance on genetic engineering. Photo / Susan Botting



Day said a new council working party had been set up in June. It includes KDC politicians, chaired by Deputy Mayor Jonathan Larsen, councillors Gordon Lambeth, Ron Manderson and Mark Vincent, along with external Resource Management Act expert (and former NRC chairman) Mark Farnsworth.

Day said the working party had not yet made any recommendations on future GE/GMO precautionary and prohibitive processes, policies and rules.


Cr Manderson - who has previously been involved with the genetic engineering of plants at the then Department of Scientific and Industrial Research - said he was open to the opportunities of GE/GMOs being examined in Kaipara.

The outdoor use of GE/GMOs would have to come with adequate controls to allay community fears about potential cross-contamination, he said.

Manderson said he saw no reason why the council should not back down on its August 2022 strengthened GE/GMO provision, but the working party’s democratic makeup meant he would accept the majority position on this.

He did not indicate whether the working party had already decided whether to stay with the strengthened position on GMOs.

GE Free Northland’s Grammer and Marty Robinson, who is also a Northland Regional Council (NRC) councillor, said they favoured a strengthened approach, during a recent KDC council meeting in Mangawhai.

The pair said there were risks from outdoor GE/GMO experiments or field trials, including from new gene editing techniques.

“Kaipara district’s valuable agricultural, horticultural, apiculture, fisheries, and forestry sectors and the wider ‘Northland, naturally’ brand must be protected from the risks of genetically modified organisms,” Grammer said.

KDC’s August 2022 strengthening is part of the council’s 2013 District Plan review, which is required to be done every 10 years.

Grammer said it was great to see the current Plan’s existing in-principle support against GE being strengthened in August 2022.

This was achieved by adding policies already in place for Whangārei and Far North District Councils’ District Plans, bringing consistency for all Northland’s territorial authorities.

However, she said she was concerned that strengthening was now at risk of being diluted and KDC’s District Plan review progress had slowed down to a concerning degree.

KDC’s Day said there was no set date for the review to be publicly notified, as the recently formed working party needed to finalise the document first.

“However, it is envisaged that notification will likely occur in 2024,” Day said.

The bloc of KDC, Whangārei District Council (WDC), Far North District Council (FNDC), NRC and Auckland Council are part of New Zealand’s only inter-regional precautionary approach to genetically modified organisms.

Grammer said KDC walking back on its August 2022 anti-GE provisions risked this unique approach.

Local Democracy Reporting Northland asked KDC for comment in response. The council again indicated that the working party had not yet made any recommendations.

NRC’s Robinson said it was important for Northland’s economy that KDC aligned with the four other councils in the GE alliance.

Robinson said KDC like WDC and FNDC, was required to align with NRC’s Northland’s Regional Plan and Regional Policy Statements. These regional planning documents included precautionary and prohibitive GE/GMO provisions, policies and rules.

Meanwhile, Federated Farmers Northland president Colin Hannah would not comment on the GE free campaigners’ position or on GE/GMOs in the context of KDC’s District Plan review.

He said New Zealand’s now outdated June 1996 Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO Act) needed to be reviewed.

AgResearch outdoor field trials of genetically modified ryegrass, underway in the United States and Australia, could potentially offer opportunity for Aotearoa to reduce its global warming impacts, Hannah said.

Mangawhai flower grower Martina Tschirky said a huge amount of work had been put into bringing an inter-regional bloc to fruition.

Tschirky, who is also GE Free Kaipara spokeswoman, said she did not want to see Kaipara become an island within that group.

“I would hate to see all that gain lost,” Tschirky said.


■ Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air