Reforms threatening GM-Free Hastings to be re-negotiated

The Maori Party have praised a video calling for them to pull support from reforms which threaten Hastings’ future as a GMO-free district.

Hawke’s Bay Today, February 4 2017. By Victoria White.

Hawke’s Bay leaders were joined by public figures from around the country in the video – titled Protect Our GM Free Growing Regions – which calls for the Maori Party to condemn changes to the Resource Management Act (RMA) proposed by the Government.

In 2015, Hastings District Council became the first in New Zealand to secure the territory’s GMO free food producer status under its district plan. However, section 360D(1)(d)) in the revised Resource Legislation Amendment Bill could essentially take away the council’s ability to establish GMO-free zones.

Last year the Maori Party supported the amendment, providing the numbers needed for the bill to move to the next stage.

The video – spearheaded by lobby group Pure Hawke’s Bay – states the Maori Party “has the power to protect our right to be GM free”, and ends with the call for them to “take 360D of the RMA bill off the table”.

When asked for a response to the video, Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox said they would be negotiating the bill when Parliament resumed next week.

Before Christmas the Maori Party had told Environment Minister Nick Smith in a letter that it did not support new regulatory powers under s360D(1)(d)). All other political parties have condemned the clause.

Ms Fox said it became “very clear” after seeing its draft that their understanding of the clause was different to Mr Smith’s – which they had since tried to clarify.

Their understanding had been that the 360D powers would be “greatly reduced” and only used by the minister if there was a conflict between two pieces of legislation, to determine which would take precedent.

“We were clear about what we thought we had agreed to, and that is actually different to what the minister is talking about,” she said.

She praised the video – featuring Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule, Ngati Kahungunu chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council chairman Rex Graham, former All Black Taine Randall, local farmers and growers.

Although Ms Fox said the party supported council’s GM-free stance, the party had not “gone as far as pulling complete support” from the bill, as they wanted to ensure references to the Treaty of Waitangi, and Tikianga were included.

“This is one area we obviously disagree with the government on and we’ll go back to the table when the house resumes on the 7th.”

This progress was welcome news for those involved in the video.

In making it, Mr Yule said the hope had been that the Maori Party might re-examine their position, which it appeared they were now doing.

“I think it has made a difference but we won’t know how successful it’s been until National and the Maori Party have that conversation.”

Although Mr Graham said he hoped the party would pull their support, he said Ms Fox’s statements showed they were “on the same page as us”.

“Decisions such as these should be made locally,” he said.

Ikaroa-Rawhiti MP and Labour’s local government spokeswoman Meka Whaitiri has criticised the Maori Party previously, and called for them to pull support from the bill.

Yesterday she said, “The Maori Party should do the right thing and step up, and withdraw their support from Nick Smith’s disastrous piece of legislation.”

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