Regions Hit Back at Minister’s Continued Crusade To Quash GM Free Zones

Pure Hawke’s Bay Media Release

March 6: The Environment Minister is continuing his crusade to strip regions of the ability to be GM Free – despite his ongoing struggles to get backing from Parliament.

Today, the Local Government and Environment Select Committee reported back today on the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill, which contains proposals that have been roundly rejected by businesses and communities.

The most controversial is the new powers the minister wants so he can prevent the regions creating GM Free food producer zones under their local plans.

This bid is set out in s360D of the Bill and is known as a Henry VIII clause, because it allows the executive to bypass parliament to make fundamental changes to the law.

Fonterra, Beef and Lamb, Dairy NZ and Horticulture New Zealand stated their opposition to these powers in submissions on the Bill.

The Minister is still unable to find support for the new powers, with s360D and the wider bill rejected by Act, United Future, Labour, NZ First and the Greens.

The Maori Party has also stated that its does not support the use of the proposed powers to prevent communities from creating GM Free zones, and the Party remains in negotiation with the Minister over the controversial clauses.

Despite this widespread condemnation, the Minister is ploughing on. In addition, he has introduced in a further clause – a new 43A(3A) – that would give him another route to extinguish local GM Free zones.

This clause has been slipped in to the Bill at the select committee stage, without public consultation.

“The minister should accept what Parliament, business and the wider community are telling him: that the powers are unnecessary, unprincipled and would undermine regional economic initiatives, like ours,” says Pure Hawke’s Bay chairman, Bruno Chambers.

“High-value food exports are the foundation of the Hawke’s Bay economy. Consumers around the world reject GM foods and the demand for GM Free foods is a huge opportunity to add value to Hawke’s Bay’s export receipts,” he said.

Many high-value food producing regions around the world are officially GM Free. In Europe, 64 regions have taken this step, including some of the world’s most celebrated: Burgundy, Champagne and Tuscany. Across the Tasman, South Australia’s GM Free status is at the centre of its strategy for premium positioning in the international marketplace.

“Hawke’s Bay producers want the same options so that we can remain competitive”, says Scott Lawson of Lawsons True Earth.

We have repeatedly invited the Government to work with us so that we can increase export returns for our region and for the country. It is puzzling that the Minister is determined to deprive us of this economic opportunity.

“We are market-focussed. We are not saying ‘no-never’ to GM crops, but for the time being, the opportunities for Hawke’s Bay’s food export economy lie overwhelmingly with the GM Free position”, says Lawson.

“Hawke’s Bay food producers want the right to decide on whether their region remains GM Free, and we have huge support from the Hawke’s Bay community for our GM Free initiative.

“We are looking to the Maori Party to consign the Minister’s attempted power grab to the wastebin, where it belongs”, says Mr Chambers.

Notes to editors:

  1. The Local Government and Environment Select Committee Report is available here. Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens have all filed minority reports opposing 360D and other aspects of the Bill.
  2. 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).
  3. New Section 43A(3A): This clause would allow the Minister to use a national environmental standard 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 reigons, why are these proposed changes required?

 

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