Overwhelming Support for Local Decisions on GM Free Status: National Poll

Four out of five New Zealanders think councils should be able to keep their districts GM Free using local plans, according to a Colmar Brunton poll.

The poll was commissioned by Pure Hawke’s Bay, a group of premium food producers who are asking councils in the region to secure Hawke’s Bay’s GM free status through local plans.

Earlier this year, the Government announced its intention to change the law to prevent the regions from doing so. But 79% of New Zealanders participating in the national poll said that councils should be able to use the RMA to prohibit GM releases in their territories.

The response shows that the Government is way out of step with New Zealanders, says Bruno Chambers of Pure Hawke’s Bay.

Several councils – including Hastings, Whangarei, Far North and Auckland City – are proposing to use local plans to protect their regions from GMO releases, with strong backing from their communities.

But the Government wants to cut the regions out of decisions on GM releases. It wants the Environmental Protection Agency to have sole responsibility for making the call on whether GMOs should be grown in Hawke’s Bay and other regions.

Food producers and exporters are far better placed to understand regional economic opportunities than a Wellington regulator, says John Bostock. We are in the marketplace everyday. And the message from the market place is loud and clear: premium buyers and high value markets want GM Free.

New Zealanders understand this, the poll shows. 83% of respondents believe that remaining GM free in food production is important for New Zealand’s reputation.

The Government’s proposal would effectively eliminate GM free regions as an option because they cannot be created under the national law (the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act). That is why local plans are crucial in securing the market advantage that GM Free status offers New Zealand food producers.

Regions must retain the ability to protect their GM free status, says Bruno Chambers. Many of our competitors in high value markets are able to ensure their fields remain GM Free under local laws and are doing just that.

This month, the South Australian Government extended the state’s moratorium on GM cropping because it sees GM Free status as critical to South Australia’s position as a premium food and wine producer. That is the story Hawke’s Bay should be telling the world, and telling it better, says Bostock.

The Hawke’s Bay community is right behind our initiative to protect the region’s GM free status, says Chambers. 84% of respondents in a regional poll we commissioned last year said the region should remain a GM Free food producer, and a similar number wanted the local authorities to use their planning powers to protect that status.

Ngati Kahungunu chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana says “NKII supports a GM free Kahungunu rohe from Wairoa to Wairarapa as the right thing to do by Papatuanuku. Our geographical uniqueness allows us to invest in greater organic development and branding for the region.”

Hastings District Council is backing the initiative and is proposing to formalize the district’s GM Free food producer status in the district plan. We applaud the Council for seeing the opportunity for the district’s food producers and moving to secure it, says Chambers.

The latest poll also showed nearly four out of five New Zealanders support councils being able to ensure that GM developers, and not general ratepayers or other food producers, carry the costs of cleaning up GM contamination after field trials. Hastings, Whangarei and Far North Councils are proposing local rules to that effect, and 78% of respondent think that councils should be able to introduce such rules.

Government should shelve its plan to prevent regions from growing wealth through GM Free status, and allow the Hawke’s Bay community to determine how best to add value to its local food economy.

Notes.

  1. The questions were part of Colmar Brunton’s CATI Omnibus Survey. Fieldwork was conducted between 10 July 2013 and 14 August 2013. A total of 1,000 adults took part in the research. The maximum margin of error for the sample size is +/- 3.1%. The report is available here.
  2. Earlier this year, the Government announced that it intends to strike out local authorities ability to rule on GMO releases, during the upcoming reforms to the Resource Management Act (Resource Management. Summary of Reform Proposals, August 2013, pp. 29-30)
  3. The regional Colmar Brunton poll Pure Hawke’s Bay commissioned in 2012 was a telephone survey of five hundred adults (18+) in the Hawke’s Bay region, and conducted between 25 January 2012 and 11 February 2012. A sample size of 500 is subject to maximum margins of error of +/- 4.4%. The results are available here.
  4. This month, the Hastings District Council released its proposed district plan, which proposes to prohibit GM releases and make field trials discretionary.

 

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