Northland communities urge Northland Regional Council to protect the region's existing GE Free status


GE Free Northland
2 November 2018 Media Release
Gene edited organisms are GMOs and are unacceptable in Northland
Northland communities urge Northland Regional Council to protect the region's valuable GE free status

More than one hundred submissions (lodged in response to the Northland Regional Council's proposed new Regional Plan) strongly back alignment with Auckland and Northland District Council plans that already contain provisions and policies created for the purpose of protectiing the Northern peninsula's valuable GE-Free status. 


At the Whangarei hearings that took place earlier this week, the NRC was urged by all submittors (other than Federated Farmers of NZ) to include strong precautionary and prohibitive GMO provisions into the new Regional Plan and give effect to the precautionary GMO policy direction of the operative "Regional Policy Statement" (1).


Whangarei and Far North District Councils, local Iwi and hapu, Physicians & Scientists for Responsible Genetics, the Auckland GE Free Coalition,  the Soil & Health Association, Northland businesses and many farmers, growers and other ratepayers seeking similar relief, provided compelling evidence to the NRC (including that of Expert Witnesses) in support of a precautionary and prohibitive approach to the risks of outdoor use of GE/GMOs.  

Such an approach is necessary given the risks of GMOs to our biosecurity, existing GE free primary producers and their valuable enterprises, our economy, food sovereignty, and the public health.


Expert witnesses included Professor Jack Heinemann, economist Dr. John Small, marine biologist Dr. Shaw Mead, and Dr Benjamin Pittman who spoke separately on various scientific, environmental, economic, risk management, and other issues.  Dr. Pittman provided detailed Evidence regarding the cultural values of Tai Tokerau mana whenua and the ban on any outdoor use of GE/GMOs already in place by Tai Tokerau Iwi authorities (for all of their respective rohe, Bombay hills north to Cape Reinga).


Dr. Mead provided Expert Evidence on the risks of outdoor GE experiments and field trials on land to waterways and the Coastal Marine Area, stressing the importance of sustainable integrated management of the total region, including on a catchment level, as any GMO pollution from the land would be highly likely to contaminate soils, waterways, and the CMA.


Farmers, foresters, horticulturists and beekeepers spoke about their concerns about likely adverse environmental impacts of outdoor use of GMOs and economic harm to their valuable existing GE free enterprises.   As documented overseas, outdoor use of GE/GMO's has increased the use of herbicides, has failed to deliver on promises to elevate crop yields, led to contamination of seeds, soils, and waterways, has created invasive herbicide resistant "super weeds" and resulted in numerous lawsuits (where those primary producers contaminated by GMOs are then subjected to legal action by multinationals or companies with proprietary rights on GE seeds).


Federated Farmers of NZ was the only further submitter to the NRC PRPN, opposing all the other submissions lodged on the GMO issue, requesting that they be "disallowed" in entirety.  FFNZ continues to oppose the good work of local councils to create a much needed tier of local protection against the risks of outdoor use of GE/GMOs, despite this additional layer of protection benefitting their own members as well as serious deficiencies in the national regulation under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act.

Deficiencies in HSNO (as identified by Local Government NZ and a growing number of councils since 2003) include inadequate liability provisions and no mandatory requirement for the EPA to take a precautionary approach to outdoor GE/GMO applications.  

"We thank Whangarei and Far North District Councils and all those who helped make such a compelling case to our local Regional Council, by providing planning, scientific, economic, environmental, cultural, and other evidence of the potentially harmful and irreversible impacts of outdoor GE experiments or releases in the northern Isthmus.  We urge the NRC to act on its duty of care to its constituents and obligation to manage natural and finite resources in a truly sustainable manner, in keeping with the relevant sections of the Resource Management Act (RMA)," said Martin Robinson, spokesman GE Free Tai Tokerau.


"We acknowledge the work of WDC, FNDC and Auckland Council, who have taken action on a local level to protect ratepayers and the environment already. They understand the economic opportunities for local primary producers, including in the Coastal Marine Area, of a GE free region, and how crippling GM contamination could be for our high-value food and forestry producers. We note that both global certification bodies (FSC and PEFC) do not allow any GE/GMO trees in certified forests (2)***, due to the serious ecological risks, market aversion, and their adherence to the precautionary principle," said Robinson.

"Northland region's valuable agricultural, horticultural, apiculture and forestry sector (and "Northland, naturally") brand must be protected.  Our community group would like to see strong precautionary and prohibitive GE/GMO provisions, policies, and objectives in the new Regional Plan for both land and the Coastal Marine Area.  Our valuable enterprises, access to key markets and premiums must be protected from the risks of outdoor use of GMOs. Some of the world's most celebrated food regions- Tuscany, Provence, Bordeaux- are official GM Free Zones. That's the club we want to be part of and Northland is well placed geographically to achieve this distinction," said Linda Grammer, chairperson, GE Free Tai Tokerau.  



Martin Robinson,

spokesperson, GE Free Tai Tokerau

09 407 8650

mobile: 022 136 9619

Linda Grammer

chairperson, GE Free Tai Tokerau

mobile: 022 309 5039

See also


"Gene editing is unacceptable"  22 October 2018 NZ Farmers Weekly
by Hawke's Bay primary producers/ exporters Bruno Chambers, David Cranwell, Phyllis Tinchinin and John Bostock





GE/GMO Hearings 30/31 October 2018


Northland Regional council


The Northland "Regional Policy Statement" is now operative (resolution passed by the NRC on 15 May 2018).

Link to the agenda (refer item 6.1) -  

The Northland RPS includes Precautionary policy 6.1.2 and Method 6.1.5, as well as the GE/GMO issue correctly identified as an Issue of Significance to Northland tangata whenua/ issue of concern to Northland communities...and the specific concerns of Maori regarding the risks of outdoor use of GE/GMOs to indigenous biodiversity

(as directed by Judge Newhook on 12 April 2018, the wording of Policy 6.1.2 and Method 6.1.5 has the following wording



"Policy 6.1.2  - Precautionary approach


 Adopt a precautionary approach towards the effects of climate change and introducing genetically modified organisms to the environment where they are scientifically uncertain, unknown or little understood, but potentially significantly adverse.

This is confirmed by method 6.1.5 in the Northland RPS which states that: 

"6.1.5 Method- Statutory Plans and Strategies

The regional and district councils should apply 6.1.2 when reviewing their plans or considering options for plan changes and assessing resource consent applications.


Method 6.1.5 implements Policy 6.1.2"

(ENDS excerpt from Judge Newhook's 12 April 2018 decision)

** (2)

Both the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), global certification bodies for  sustainable forestry, do not allow GE trees in their certified forests, due to the ecological risks and their commitment to the precautionary principle 

(6) "Use of genetically modified organisms shall be prohibited"- Criterion 6.8 of Forest Stewardship Council's Principles and Criteria.


PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification)

PEFC- 3.8  Guidelines for Forest Management Practices 

2. The forest manager shall not use genetically-engineered trees.

The National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF) states that use of GE trees/ GM tree stock  is not a permitted activity in the NES


 MPI states in their analysis (point 3.6.2) that  “… it is not appropriate for GM tree stock to be included as a permitted activity in an NES.” (3) 


(3)Report on submissions and recommendations, 3.6.2 and 3.6.2, page 31


Further background:

ICWP on GMOs commissioned Colmar Brunton poll

In 2009, Colmar Brunton was commissioned by the Northland/ Auckland "Inter Council Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation & Management Options" to conduct an independent telephone poll/ survey. Its purpose was to gauge the degree to which Northland and Auckland communities are willing to accept risks associated with the outdoor use of GMOs, and to test options for responding to these risks. There is / was currently no outdoor use of GM plants or animals in Auckland and Northland.  

Two thirds or more of the residents polled want local or regional councils to have a role in regulating GMOs in their areas, either by setting local rules or by a change  of legislation at the national level. Support in the Auckland region averaged 68% and 74% in Northland (85% of Maori). 

Around two thirds of the respondents also favoured regulation that would make users of GMOs legally responsible for any environmental or economic harm - either through local regulation