Northland local authorities and Auckland Council collaboratively investigate local GMO controls

GE Free Northland Press Release

24 July 2011
Northland local authorities and Auckland Council collaboratively investigate local GMO controls
GE Free Northland are delighted by the news that the Auckland Council “super city” and Far North District Council have made a commitment to collaborate with Whangarei District Council in the investigation of some type of regulation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
At least three councils are now set to investigate a plan change and section 32 analysis of GMOs, because of the risks to our biosecurity, environment, economy, and the livelihoods of non -GM primary producers.
Kaipara District Council and Northland Regional Council will shortly vote on whether they will join in this important work, in keeping with their official precautionary GE policies.
There is sustained concern in Northland and other parts of New Zealand, about genetic engineering (GE) experiments and releases in this country, particularly in view of the documented adverse impacts of GMOs overseas.
“Nonetheless, central government continues to ignore local community concerns as it pushes for free trade agreements and allows industry interests to dominate regulation and decision-making,” said Martin Robinson, GE Free Northland spokesperson.
Whangarei councillors have already unanimously rejected the outdoor use of GMOs in Whangarei District.  A precedent was also set in l998, with Auckland City Council achieving outright prohibition of all GMOs in its Hauraki Gulf & Islands District Plan.  This was put in place at low cost, without legal challenge, in keeping with the wishes of Auckland ratepayers' concerns about GMOs.
After lobbying central government for over 7 years to fix the flaws and gaps in the national minimal legislation* that covers GMOs, local councils have finally had enough of their concerns being ignored and are saying NO to the outdoor use of GMOs and YES to protecting the public interest by building on our clean, green, nuclear free and GE free brand.
Phil Halse, Whangarei District Council Acting Mayor, commented:
"It's great to hear that Auckland Council and Far North District Council are joining us in investigating the local regulation of GMOs.
This reinforces WDC’s push to keep the wider region free of GMOs, until such time as a truly strict liability regime is put in place and the risks to our biosecurity, farmers, and economy are adequately identified and addressed.
It's highly significant that all the councils from south Auckland to Cape Reinga (one third of the population in NZ) are taking action on a local level on their constituents concerns about GMOs.”
Ongoing problems with and further deterioration of the performance of central government agencies including ERMA, MAF, and NZ Crown Research Institutes are of huge concern to Northlanders.
Recent incidents involving consents for GE experiments given by ERMA have shown that the safeguards put in place are grossly inadequate.
NZ CRI’s have repeatedly been in breach of the conditions of approval laid down by ERMA for GE experiments, MAF has failed on at least 2 occasions to adequately monitor NZ Crown Research Institutes Crop & Food Research** and Forest Research.  ERMA approved experiments with GM cattle which resulted in high mortality rates and gross deformities.***
Such unsavoury incidents, using public taxpayer dollars (despite the majority of New Zealanders opposing such experimentation), has reignited debate over the ethics of such practices.
AgResearch has been given further approvals for unlimited experimentation on cows, sheep, and goats, despite the unacceptable levels of animal mortality and suffering at Ruakura.
Whangarei Mayor Morris Cutforth recently said, “our District is strong in farming and tourism, two areas that have the potential to suffer greatly from a GMO trial gone wrong. Reputations take years to build up and Whangarei is well regarded as a place of clean, green beauty with a healthy pastoral sector.”****
“It would be short sighted to risk our existing and valuable GE free status (for which NZ is highly regarded internationally), especially given the lack of strict liability for any damage resulting from such experimentation,” said GE Free Northland spokesman Martin Robinson.
“When central government fails to act appropriately, local authorities have both the responsibility and the jurisdiction to act on their duty of care to their constituents and the environment, refusing to allow GE experiments that are harmful or potentially harmful.”
“GE FREE NORTHLAND thanks the Northern councillors and Mayors for addressing the critical GE issue and upholding the precautionary principle, as central government continues to ignore the concerns of many independent scientists, territorial authorities, and our key markets, as well as the majority of New Zealanders,” said Mr. Robinson.
GE FREE NORTHLAND urges local authorities to put in place enforceable rules and provisions protecting conventional primary producers, the environment, the economy and consumers from the effects of GMOs, working to ensure that the region’s economy and environment is protected and enhanced by making appropriate changes to the District Plan, Regional Plan, and Regional Policy Statement (RPS).
The Northland/Auckland peninsula is ideally placed geographically to achieve this distinction, which would minimise the economic, environmental, public health and liability exposures from GE release and experiments.
More information:      GE FREE NORTHLAND
                                    Chairperson, Zelka Grammer      09 432 2155
                                    Spokesperson, Martin Robinson  09 407 8650
*HSNO (Hazardous Substances and New Organisms) Act
**“Lab errors leads to GE leak”
NZ HERALD Sunday 1 August 2010
***“Mutant cows die in GM trial”
NZ Herald, 1 May 2010
“Lab errors leads to GE leak”
NZ HERALD Sunday 1 August 2010
Background: GE Arabidopsis escaped containment from Crop & Food Research’s (Plant and Food Research) glasshouse block back in 2010.  Poor procedure was the reason for this.  GE cress seed had been illegally imported by the CRI.
Crop & Food Research was allowed to destroy evidence and refused to talk to MAF investigators about this.  Despite gross negligence the CRI was not fined and no staff were removed.
****Mayor Cutforth GE column for Whangarei Report, 28 April 2011 
“Hawke’s  Bay growers call for GE free zone”,  3 June 2011 DOMINION POST
“A group including some of Hawke's Bay's biggest horticulturists, producers and marketers is urging its councils to declare the region a GE-free food producing area.
Pure Hawke's Bay believes genetically engineered food production and outdoor field trials involving genetically modified organisms (GMOs) pose a threat to the region's growers and the regional brand.
It wants a ban on GE field trials and food production in Hawke's Bay to be ratified in the district plans of five councils.
Group spokesman and Hawke's Bay grower John Bostock asked Hastings District Council yesterday to allocate funding for studies on how a plan change implementing the ban might be included in its 2013 10-year district plan.
In April, Whangarei District Council voted unanimously to regulate commercial GMO activities under its district plan and had indicated their prohibition was likely.
Local bodies were permitted to regulate outdoor GMOs in their area under the Resource Management Act.” (excerpt)