Northland and Auckland say NO to National Party Minister's Arrogant Power Grab

GE Free Northland Press Release

10 March 2017

Northland and Auckland say NO to National Party Minister's Arrogant Power Grab 

Whangarei, Far North, and Auckland communities are calling on the Maori Party to deny the Government the votes required to pass controversial changes to the RMA that would be used to put an end to GE Free zones.

On Monday, the Local Government and Environment Select Committee reported back on the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill, which contains proposals that have been clearly rejected by businesses, councils, farmers, tangata whenua, and the general public in Northland and Auckland, as well as in other regions.

The most controversial clauses would give the Minister the power to prevent the regions creating GM free producer zones under their local plans.

Environment Minister Nick Smith's attempt to end communities’ ability to control GM releases in their territories is arrogant and confirms why all councils from south Auckland to Cape Reinga and Hastings District Council strongly oppose the sweeping, inappropriate, and undemocratic powers he seeks under the reforms to the Resource Management Act (RMA).

Since 2013 the National Party has tried every trick in the book to block the good work of local councils who, in a 15-year process, have created a much needed additional tier of local protection against the risks of outdoor use of GMOs.


Despite widespread opposition, the Minister is not only ignoring the regions by continuing to push 360D but has introduced a further clause—43A (3A)—that would give him another way to extinguish local GM free zones. This clause was smuggled into the Bill at the Select committee stage, without public consultation.


"It's time the Minister stopped his crusade to take away the regions' ability to create GM free food producing zones," said Martin Robinson, GE Free Northland spokesperson.

"Northland growers and farmers—conventional and organic—have to produce high-value, GM free food for our discerning markets. We want to retain our valuable existing GM free status so we can remain profitable and retain access to premium markets."


Last December, the two Maori Party MP's informed Minister Nick Smith they did not support those powers inherent in clause 360D if they could be used to do away with GE Free Zones.


"We are grateful to the Maori Party for stating their support for GE Free Zones and our food sovereignty," said Zelka Grammer, GE Free Northland chairperson.  "All our councils and all Tai Tokerau Iwi authorities have precautionary and prohibitive GE policies for their respective rohe, from the Bombay hills north to Cape Reinga."


Our local GE Free Zones reflect our communities' legitimate concerns and aspirations and the imperative to protect our biosecurity, unique biodiversity, existing non GM primary producers, and economy.  The right of communities to decide was confirmed by the landmark Environment Court decision in 2015 that councils have the power under the RMA to control the outdoor use of GMOs in their regions.


The powers sought by the Minister to override our local plans are undemocratic, unnecessary, and have no support outside the National caucus. The Minister Nick Smith is looking to the Maori Party for the votes to get these undemocratic provisions over the line. No other political party supports s360D or new clause 43A(3A).


"The communities’ expectation is clear—we trust the Maori Party will reject these undemocratic clauses," said Ms. Grammer.


"We support the Maori Party seeking to make gains for tangata whenua through the Bill, but we are looking to the Party not to sacrifice their communities’ basic rights in the pursuit of those."  

"A Second Reading of the Bill is imminent and although we expect that the Maori Party will vote for the Bill to ensure the passage of the Iwi participation arrangements (IPA), they must vote down the clauses that would put an end to our hard-won protections for our land and people."


Martin Robinson, spokesperson GE Free Northland
09 407 8650
022 136 9619
Zelka Linda Grammer, chairperson, GE Free Northland
022 309 5039

Further background:
  1. Section 360D –  New Ministerial Powers:    The National majority on the Committee has recommended proceeding with 360D.  While it has reduced the scope of the powers as originally drafted and removed some of the subjective tests, the provisions that were designed specifically to give the Minister the power to quash GM Free regions have been retained.  These allow the Minister to override local rules that “duplicate, overlap with or deal with the same subject matter” as other statutes.   This is relevant to GM Free zones established under local plans because while they do not duplicate the role of the EPA they do deal with the same subject matters as the national laws governing GMO releases. (S360D is on p. 84 of the Committee report).
  2. New Section 43A(3A):   This clause would allow the Minister to use a National Environmental Standard NES) to declare activities involving hazardous substances or new organisms a permitted activity in some or all regions.  This would cover GM releases as, for the purposes of the HSNO Act, a GMO is a type of new organism and would apply to all district and regional plans. (Committee report, p. 31).  This is contentious, not only because it has been introduced into the Bill without public consultation – at least as it relates to GMOs – but because it raises questions about the Minister’s recent suggestions in the media that he can already use national environmental standards to override local plans that prohibit GMO releases.   If national environmental standards already provide him with the ability to strike out GM Free regions, why are these proposed changes required?  
Media links:
TV One news  3 March 2017
27 Feb 2017 NZ Herald

Maori Party still not sold on RMA reforms, as committee says they should progress

27 February 2017   

Dominion Post
19 December 2016
"Maori Party raises concerns over RMA changes which could affect GMO-free rules"
Northern Advocate
5 September 2016

Minister eyes law change to end councils' control over GMOs