15 June 2009

GE FREE NORTHLAND applauds a High Court ruling that has overturned ERMA's (Environmental Risk Management Authority) decision to accept applications from AgResearch to release GM animals throughout New Zealand.

The Auckland Regional Council's (ARC) elected representative on the Inter Council Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation & Options, Cr Brent Morrissey, said in the ARC's 11 June 2009 Press Release
"no lesser body than New Zealand's own High Court has made it clear that central government, through ERMA, has been remiss in its acceptance of these GMO applications from AgResearch."

GE FREE NORTHLAND's Chairperson Marty Robinson commented that "we cannot rely on central government agencies like ERMA and MAF/Biosecurity NZ. This was shown by the recent High Court finding that the ERMA failed in implementing the law in accepting and processing four applications from AgResearch for a wide ranging conditional release of transgenic animals."

“It is heartening news that the concerns of New Zealanders about the broad and indefinite nature of these GE applications have been upheld by the judge. A recent Colmar Brunton poll showed 70% opposition to the genetic engineering of animals," said Mr. Robinson.

Dr. Kerry Grundy, Chairperson of the Inter Council Working Party on GMOs, said last week that:

"It is of serious concern that ERMA has been found in error under law by the High Court in processing these applications, especially given that some of these transgenic animals could have ended up in the Northland/Auckland region.

"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."

Craig Brown, Chairman of the Northland Regional Council Environment Committee, notes: "This is a further instance of those in the position to do a proper job to safeguard us are failing in their duty of care. This incident adds to the growing disquiet of the average person and reinforces the need for all local councils to work collaboratively together to protect our environment and unique biodiversity."

Cr. Brown supports the imminent collaborative GE community consultation as the first step in investigating local regulation of land use for GMOs. This consultation will be undertaken by all the councils from Auckland Regional Council north to Cape Reinga.

"This is a classic example, if ever one was needed, of how local councils take the lead in representing the views of New Zealanders and can best protect their interests."

Cr Brown is urging his colleagues at the Northland Regional Council to join with the ARC and several other territorial authorities in the undertaking of this necessary and innovative work. This would be in keeping with the NRC's adopted precautionary policy on GMOs.

GE FREE NORTHLAND shares the concerns of Local Government NZ and local authorities about the significant deficiencies in the national regulatory regime for GMOs. "We would like to see either GMO land use prohibited in Northland/Auckland peninsula or the moratorium on GE field trials/releases reinstated," said its spokesperson Zelka Grammer.

Despite many of the Northland/Auckland peninsula councils having excellent precautionary or prohibitive policies in their adopted LTCCP's, under the HSNO Act, ERMA is not required to take heed of these policies. So far, ERMA has ignored them.

"In our view, strong "rules with teeth" regarding GMO land use are needed in the District Plan, Regional Plan and/or Regional Policy Statement to ensure our region retains the economic and environmental advantage of being GE free," said Ms. Grammer.

"We stress that 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."


* see http://scoop.co.nz/stories/AK0906/S00187.htm
* see Auckland Regional Council's ll June 2009 Press Release