Another Northland council joins appeal against NRC's controversial GMO decision

GE FREE Northland (in food & environment)

30 August 2019 Media Release


"Another Northland council joins appeal against controversial GMO decision"

GE Free Northland welcomed the news yesterday of Far North District Council's unanimous vote  to lodge an appeal with the Environment Court against Northland Regional Council over its decision on genetic engineering (Genetically Modified Organisms).

"We thank FNDC for its commitment to challenge the recent controversial NRC decision to exclude all precautionary and prohibitive GE/GMO provisions from the proposed new Regional Plan for Northland," said Martin Robinson, spokesperson for GE Free Northland.

GE Free Northland announced it will join FNDC and Whangarei District Council in legal action.

"In our view, the NRC has failed to make a sound decision on the critically important GE/GMOs issue, despite the  scientific, economic, and cultural evidence presented by submitters supporting provisions to control the adverse effects of GMO use on the environment through the Plan.  We will join FNDC as well as WDC in seeking relief in the Environment Court against NRC," said Mr. Robinson.

The NRC decision was passed by one vote, the casting vote of the chair, despite strong community and submitter support for a precautionary approach to GMOs, and clear direction for precautionary wording (already in the operative Regional Policy Statement for Northland).

"We thank the Far North District Mayor and all councillors for acting on their duty of care to local farmers, primary producers and other constituents, as well as our environment and biosecurity," said Zelka Grammer, chairperson GE Free Northland.

"FNDC continues to demonstrate leadership on the important GE/GMO issue, in the face of NRC's recent decision and the significant risks posed by outdoor use of GMOs," said Ms. Grammer.

"The process followed by NRC regarding the GE/GMO issue has been highly controversial, and angered many Northlanders.  We consider there has been a lack of transparency which was exacerbated by the failure to appoint independent commissioners to consider the GMO issue under the Regional Plan for Northland," said Ms. Grammer.

FNDC's Deputy Mayor Tania McInnes put forward the motion for FNDC to lodge an appeal against NRC, with FNDC Councillor Kelly Stratford seconding.  


Clr McInnes, who chaired Thursday's council meeting, said she hoped a new regional council would reconsider, averting the need for a costly appeal. ''I'm sure everyone's aware it's caused quite a backlash,'' she said. 

"We have a very special backyard and should be doing all we can to protect it for now and future generations. It will pay dividends in the long run," said Clr McInnes.


GE Free Northland would like to see Far North District Council and WDC working together collaboratively and with other interested parties (including local mana whenua and farmers) in this legal challenge to NRC, as our District Councils have done so successfully in the past, regarding the "Regional Policy Statement*" for Northland," said Zelka Grammer.

"Northland region's valuable agricultural, horticultural, apiculture, pastoral, and forestry sectors, and "Northland, naturally" brand must be protected (as Auckland Council has already achieved in its region)."

"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 GM free primary producers, economy, and valuable existing GE free status. We support precautionary and prohibitive GE/GMO provisions, policies, and objectives in the new Regional Plan for both land and the Coastal Marine Area," said Ms. Grammer.




Martin Robinson
spokesperson, GE Free Northland
09 407 8650
Mob: 022 136 9619

Zelka Linda Grammer
chairperson, GE Free Northland


"Another Northland council joins appeal against GMO decision" 30 August 2019 Northern Advocate  

"Whangārei council to appeal Northland Regional Council GMO policy"  16 August 2019 Northern Advocate  

GE Free Northland 16 August 2019 Media Release "Widespread support for legal protection against GE triggers legal appeal"  


Far North District Council GE/GMOs Agenda item 10.3   Northland proposed new Regional Plan - NRC  GE/GMO Decision and Appeal   

Subject: FNDC Next Thursday 29 Aug_Agenda Item_10.3_Regional Plan - Genetically Modified Organisms Decision

10.3       Regional Plan - Genetically Modified Organisms Decision

File Number:           A2594359

Author:                    Tammy Wooster, Senior Policy Planner

Authoriser:             Sheryl Gavin, General Manager – Strategic Planning and Policy (Acting)


Purpose of the Report

To determine whether Council should appeal Northland Regional Council’s decision to reject the inclusion of provisions that control genetically modified organisms in the Proposed Regional Plan. 

Executive Summary

Northland Regional Council has made a decision to reject having provisions that control genetically modified organisms in the Proposed Regional Plan.  Far North District Council made a submission to the Proposed Regional Plan requesting the inclusion of provisions to control genetically modified organisms, reflective of those included in the Auckland Unitary Plan.  Council must now decide if it wants to appeal Northland Regional Councils decision. 



That Council resolve to appeal Northland Regional Councils decision on the Proposed Regional Plan as it relates to the inclusion of provisions to control genetically modified organisms under Clause 14 of Schedule 1 of the Resource Management Act 1991.


"The following implications have been identified as a result of the Regional Council GMO July 2019 decision:

·    The potential for cross boundary effects.  A key feature of the Working Party on GMOs was seeking a consistent approach to GMO provisions in the Northern Peninsula.

·    A lack of precautionary GMO provisions for the Northland Coastal Marine Area. This would be regionally inconsistent with Auckland Council’s approach in the Auckland Unitary Plan.

·    Inconsistency with FNDC’s and WDC’s land-based district plan provisions.

·    The decision is arguably inconsistent with Policy D.1.4 of the Regional Plan.

·    The decision is arguably inconsistent with the Policy Statement and New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement. 

·    Not meeting the expectations of our communities and tangata whenua, who have advised they want GMOs to be regulated at a local level.  "

SUCCESSFUL MOTION passed unanimously by FNDC ON 29 AUGUST 2019

"Option 1: Appeal the Regional Plan decision (Recommended Option)

An appeal will result in further costs associated with Environment Court mediation and potential hearing.  Legal counsel will be required to represent FNDC, with expert evidence from a planner, scientist and economist for any Environment Court hearing.  Attendance at mediation can be restricted to legal counsel and FNDC administration staff to reduce costs.  FNDC to date has invested significant time and resources into the GMO topic.  The cost of this appeal is estimated to be $70,000 should it proceed to an Environment Court hearing.  FNDC does not have budget currently allocated for further work on this topic, and costs incurred would have to come out of the District Plan legal budget.    These costs could be incurred over a two year period or longer depending on the duration of any appeal."









(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 Northland Regional Council 16 July 2019 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. See also 
Policy D.1.4 of the Regional Plan  

(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) Media links to appellant WDC and s274 parties FNDC, Soil & Health Association Aotearoa, GE Free Northland, and various parties win against Federated Farmers of NZ regarding the NRC proposed new Regional Policy Statement (now operative)


16 April 2018 Radio NZ "Federated Farmers slammed by Judge for blocking GMO bans"


"Judge slams Federated Farmers" 24 April 2018 Dairy News


2 May 2018 media coverage 

Rural News/ Dairy News "Feds caned by Environment Court"

(3) Northland Regional Council GE/GMOs Hearings 30/31 October 2018 (Whangarei)

(4) Northland Regional council Agenda 16 July 2019  


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



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