Auckland and Northland Councils show way forward for GM Free regions

Hawke’s Bay district councils now have the tools to protect the region’s status as a GM Free food producer.

Reports released by Northland and Auckland councils this week confirm that local authorities can prohibit GM releases and set out in detail what rules are required under the Resource Management Act (RMA) to achieve this. 

It is already well established that councils can regulate outdoor GM activities, but these reports provide the actual tools to do so.

This latest work helps clarify the way forward for the Hastings Council’s plan change for similar provisions to be included in the Hastings District Plan review, says Bruno Chambers. This would be consistent with the unanimous decision by the Hastings Council last year to investigate an amendment to the District Plan to protect our growers and food exporters from the adverse consequences of a GM release in our region.

Hawke’s Bay growers, farmers and exporters will no doubt welcome the Northland work, but will now be looking to councils to move quickly to protect their businesses and secure the branding opportunities in export markets.

A Colmar Brunton poll commissioned by Pure Hawke’s Bay last year indicates the wider community would back district rules to prohibit GM releases. In fact, 85% of respondents want councils in Hawke’s Bay to take action.

“This is all about securing added value for our agricultural export and positioning the Hawke’s Bay as a premium food producer region. It’s a win-win for the Bay”, says Chambers.

Pure Hawke’s Bay is calling on Hastings District Council and other Hawke’s Bay councils to protect the region’s GM Free food producer status for the next ten years (the life of the district plans).

“In due course, the Council can review whether it is still in the interests of Hawke’s Bay food producers and exporters and the regional economy, but for now, it is clear that this is where the opportunities are”, says Chambers.

Council action is also needed to protect our producers and economy from the costs of GM contamination. A key finding of the Northland and Auckland reports is that liability laws do not adequately protect producers or exporters from contamination or other negative outcomes from a GM release of field trial. Instead, they or the community could be left carrying the costs of misuse or regulatory failure.

The reports released today show that councils need to strengthen liability provisions so that the costs do not fall on innocent parties and their businesses.

Notes

  1. The district plan rules outlined in the report focus exclusively on outdoor uses of genetically modified organisms. It does not concern contained laboratory R+D, medical applications of GM, or imported GM ingredients.
  2.  The liability requirements the Northland reports recommend fill the gaps in the national regulations. Under central government law, if a developer/farmer uses a GMO in accordance with EPA requirements, and this still results in contamination of other farmers’ land or crops, non-GM farmers will have to shoulder any resulting economic damage.
  3. The reports were commissioned by Northland and Auckland councils that make up the Intercouncil Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation and Management. Member councils are: Auckland City Council, Whangarei District Council, Far North District Council and the Kaipara District Council. The latest reports are the culmination of ten years of investigation.

The reports include:

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