GE FREE NZ (Northland)  in food and environment

  Press Release 14 March 2013


A full public gallery resoundingly welcomed the unanimous decision yesterday by Whangarei District Council, to act on the recommendations of the Inter Council Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation & Management Options.  The ICWP on GMOs recently produced proposed Planning provisions, a section 32 evaluation supporting those provisions, and a legal opinion from Dr. Royden Somerville QC, for the Northland /Auckland councils to consider.

The Working Party has carried out a thorough evaluation of the necessity for regulation of GMOs at a district and/ or regional level, in addition to national regulation under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act.

The Working Party has found the national legislation regarding GMOs to be inadequate, in regard to both liability and the precautionary principle. 

"Our community group heartily thanks Whangarei District Council for collaboratively commissioning these important documents with the other Northland District Councils and Auckland Council and responding in this way to the legitimate concerns of their constituents," said GE Free Northland Chairperson Zelka Grammer.

"Farmers and other primary producers need their councils to be proactive on this important issue, working to protect our existing valuable GE free status.  Our key markets have sent us a very strong message- they will not accept even trace contamination of GMOs.  As Deputy Mayor Phil Halse said on the day, if those who wish to experiment with GMOs are not willing to prove financial fitness, post a substantial bond and be personally and financially liable for unintended/ unforseen adverse impacts of an EPA approved GE experiment, they should go elsewhere," said Mrs. Grammer.

"WDC continues to show admirable leadership on this important issue, working (in the face of central government inaction) to create an additional tier of protection against the risks of outdoor use of GMOs.  We cannot rely on central government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency* and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)** to protect our patch. Good on WDC," said Mrs. Grammer.

Under existing legislation in NZ, experimentation (or the release of) GMOs to the environment creates significant financial exposure for local government, including the Auckland/ Northland peninsula councils, and the costs involved could be substantial.

“This decision tends to justify, and lend credence to, the work that the ICWP on GMOs is undertaking on behalf of ratepayers and primary producers in the Northland/Auckland region," said Mrs. Grammer.

"Local authorities have both jurisdiction regarding the outdoor use of GMOs and a duty of care to protect their ratepayers and the environment from uninsurable short and long term harm from GMOs," said Martin Robinson, spokesperson for GE Free Northland.

A strong precautionary approach to GMOs (or even better, outright prohibition) is necessary to prevent potentially enormous costs falling on ratepayers from damage arising from GE experiments or release of GE organisms."

"Under the HSNO Act there is no requirement for 'polluter pays'  to ensure companies causing unintended or unforseen adverse impacts from GE crops or GE animals are held responsible. Potential for accidental damage includes transgenic contamination of soil and waterways, the emergence of herbicide resistant "super weeds", increased herbicide and pesticide use, contamination of existing non GM primary producers (conventional, IPM and organic).  There is also a strong potential for serious economic loss to regions marketing their products and tourism under New Zealand's global clean-green brand, if GMO land use is permitted," said Mr. Robinson.

"This is a classic example of how local councils can take the lead in representing the views of New Zealanders and can best protect their interests. The independent Colmar Brunton GE poll conducted back in November 2009 clearly showed that 70%+ or 2/3rds of Northlanders support some type of local regulation of GMO land use.”

"We now ask Northland Regional Council to formally table these important documents and vote to support the recommendations of the ICWP on GMOs.  The NRC urgently needs to rectify flaws in the NRC proposed Regional Policy Statement, by placing a strong precautionary GE provision in the NRC new RPS (at the very least)," said Mr. Robinson.

This would support the wishes of Northland District Councils and Iwi authorities, and take Northland one step closer to an enforceable ban on release of GMOs, due to risks of GMOs to our biosecurity, unique biodiversity, primary producers and economy.

The Northland/Auckland peninsula is ideally placed geographically to achieve the distinction, which would minimise the economic, environmental, public health and liability exposures from GE experiments and releases.

More information:

Zelka Linda Grammer, Chairperson, GE Free NZ Northland 09 432 2155
Martin Robinson, Spokesperson,         "   "              "         09 407 8650

*formerly ERMA (Environmental Risk Management Authority)
**formerly MAF/ Biosecurity NZ

Further information:

to see all ICWP on GMOs commissioned documents (publicly released on 4 February 2013) go to the Whangarei District Council GENETIC ENGINEERING page (scroll down to Reports/ Proposed Plan Change Reports


the Whangarei District Council / ICWP on GMOs Press Release of 4 February 2013  
"Councils to consider GMO controls"

"Councils are to consider prohibiting commercial outdoor uses of GMOs in Northland and Auckland and requiring consents for outdoor field trials."


Recommendations that all WDC councillors voted to support yesterday (Wednesday, l3 March 2013)

1. That Whangarei District Council receives and supports in principle the resolutions of the Inter Council Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation and Management Options (the Working Party) as set out in the minutes of the meeting of the Working Party on 30 January 2013.

2. That the following documentation be received:

(i) Managing Risks Associated with the Outdoor Use of Genetically Modified Organisms: Cover Note by Dr Grundy. January 2013.

(ii) Draft Proposed Plan Change to the District/Unitary Plan: Managing Risks Associated with the Outdoor Use of Genetically Modified Organisms. January 2013.

(iii) Draft Section 32 Report (Volume 1): Draft Proposed Plan Change to the District/Unitary Plan: Managing Risks Associated with the Outdoor Use of Genetically Modified Organisms. January 2013.

(iv) Supporting Documentation to the Draft Section 32 Report (Volume 2): Managing Risks Associated with Outdoor Use of Genetically Modified Organisms. January 2013.

(v) Legal Opinion from Dr R.J. Somerville QC: Outdoor Use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). 18 January 2013.

3. That Whangarei District Council adopts in principle the Draft Proposed Plan Provisions and Draft Section 32 Report as produced by the Working Party for inclusion in the Whangarei District Plan, and that
Whangarei District Council acknowledges the importance of a collaborative approach with other member councils on the Working Party to support the effectiveness of the draft proposed plan provisions and the efficiencies to be gained by sharing the costs of future statutory processes (where possible), including joint response to possible legal challenge.

4. That subject to the Working Party member councils’ determinations in respect to recommendation (e) from the minutes of the Working Party meeting on 30 January 2013, a memorandum of understanding
between the participating councils to jointly manage any further statutory process, including response to possible legal challenge, be prepared and provide for the joint funding of that process, where possible (on an equitable basis as used for previous work).

5. That prior to signing a memorandum of understanding, a process be developed to enable co-ordination between participating councils in respect of statutory procedures (and timing) concerning the introduction of plan provisions into planning documents for managing the outdoor uses of GMOs.

6. That Whangarei District Council notes that the plan provisions and accompanying Section 32 Report are in draft and will not be final until such time as they are publically notified as a change to, or introduction of, a district or unitary plan, and that new information and/or consultation which may occur in the intervening period may be considered in the documentation.