"Casting vote on GE a slap in the face for community"


GE Free Northland
17 July 2019 Media Release
"Casting vote on GE a slap in the face for community"

After a 4-4 tied vote by Northland Regional Councillors on the critically important GE/GMO issue, NRC Chairman Bill Shepherd used his casting vote to secure a controversial decision that fails to protect Northland's existing valuable GE free status and biosecurity.

Yesterday's flawed NRC decision excludes all precautionary and prohibitive GE/GMO provisions from the proposed new Regional Plan for Northland, flying in 
the face of the need to be in alignment with Auckland Council's strong precautionary 
and prohibitive GE/GMO provisions in its' Unitary Plan, strong District Council, community and submitter support for such protection, and clear direction for such wording
in the Regional Plan (contained in the operative Northland "Regional Policy Statement"). (1) 
Earlier this year, NRC made a preliminary decision to place strong precautionary and prohibitive GE/GMO provisions in the Coastal Marine Area of the new Regional Plan.    

"The NRC failed yesterday to make a sound decision on the critically important 
GE/GMOs issue, ignoring the overwhelming scientific, legal, economic, environmental, and cultural evidence presented by 99% of submitters supporting GMO rules in the Plan," said Martin Robinson, spokesperson, GE-Free Northland.

"Our community group is greatly concerned that NRC also limited 
discussion on this important issue to the Coastal Marine Area (CMA) 
early on, rather than addressing the serious risks of outdoor use of GE/GMOs to 
Northland soils, waterways, and land based primary producers," said Robinson.

The process followed by NRC regarding the genetic engineering issue has 
been highly controversial, with a lack of transparency and NRC wasting 
nearly $14,000 of ratepayer funds this year "investigating" and 
"deliberating on" the already clearly resolved liability issue regarding 

As a full member of the Northland/ Auckland "Inter Council 
Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation & Management Options", NRC was 
already aware that placing precautionary and prohibitive GMO provisions, 
policies, and rules in local plans benefits both councils and their
ratepayers, and reduces rather than increases liability.
The NRC CEO Malcolm Nicolson recently refused to accept robust 
independent scientific information (tabled by submittors) on the 
risks of GMOs including gene edited organisms (that has come to light 
since last year’s October 2018 formal hearings).

The NRC also took the highly unusual and questionable step (just within the 
bounds of legality) in March 2018 to sideline the independent 
commissioners (who heard all the other issues raised in the proposed 
Regional Plan for Northland process) on the GE/GMOs issue.  Northlanders who submitted
on the important GE/GMOs issue had a clear expectation (after going through the NRC proposed new Regional Policy Statement process years before) that they would be heard by unbiased independent commissioners regarding the proposed new Regional Plan.  But this was not to be.

"Northland region's valuable agricultural, horticultural, apiculture, 
pastoral, forestry sector, and "Northland, naturally" brand must be 
protected (as Auckland Council has already achieved in its region) from 
outdoor use of GE/GMOs," said Zelka Grammer, chairperson, GE Free Northland.

"Our community group will seek relief against NRC via legal action 
through the courts in order to protect the region's biosecurity, unique 
biodiversity, existing GE-free primary producers, economy, and valuable 
existing GE-free status. We support strong precautionary and prohibitive 
GE/GMO provisions, policies, and objectives in the new Regional Plan for 
both land and the Coastal Marine Area," said Grammer.

"Our valuable enterprises, access to key markets, and premium commodity 
prices must be protected from the risks of outdoor use of GMOs.  Some of 
the world's most celebrated food regions—for example Tuscany, Provence, 
Bordeaux—are official GM Free Zones. That's the club we want to be part 
of, and Northland and Auckland is well placed geographically to achieve 
this distinction," said Ms. Grammer.



Martin Robinson
spokesperson, GE Free Northland

09 407 8650

mobile: 022 136 9619

Zelka Linda Grammer

chairperson, GE Free Northland

email: linda.grammer@gmail.com 

Further background:

The NRC received 83 submissions on the GE/GMOs issue, of which 82 asked 
that strong precautionary and prohibitive GE/GMO provisions be placed in 
the new Regional Plan. Only Federated Farmers of NZ submitted against 
such provisions.

Federated Farmers has a history of vexatious and unsuccessful GE/GMO appeals
 against various councils around the country - councils acting to protect their farmers
and other ratepayers from the risks of outdoor use of GE/GMOs.


(1) Wording: "that regional and district councils should apply 
precautionary GE/GMO policy 6.1.2 when reviewing their plans or 
considering options for plan changes and assessing resource consent 
applications."- operative Northland "Regional Policy Statement (GE/GMO 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 tāngata whenua / issue of concern to Northland 
communities...and the specific concerns of Māori regarding the risks of 
outdoor use of GE/GMOs to indigenous biodiversity.

(as directed by Principal Environment Court 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) "Judge slams Federated Farmers" 24 April 2018 Dairy News

(3) GE/GMO Hearings 30/31 October 2018


Northland Regional council


(4) Northland Regional council Agenda 16 July 2019 

(5) GE Free NZ Media release 16 July 2019 "Council vote leaves Northlanders feeling betrayed"