COURT CASE FOR LOCAL CHOICE ABOUT GMOs

Local Northland councils, mana whenua, GE Free Northland, the Soil & Health Association of Aotearoa NZ, local farmers and other ratepayers are standing together to protect the Northland new Regional Policy Statements precautionary GE provisions

COURT CASE FOR LOCAL CHOICE ABOUT GMOs

GE Free Northland Press Release, 20 April 2015

On Friday, 24 April, an important Environment Court hearing will take place in Whangarei about the outdoor use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

GE Free Northland and the Soil & Health Association of NZ are seeking confirmation of their view that there is jurisdiction under the Resource Management Act for local control of outdoor use of GMOs in the face of a challenge to jurisdiction by Federated Farmers New Zealand.

“We support the right of local bodies to manage any potential use of GMOs in their area, using the Resource Management Act. We applaud the efforts of various NZ councils to put in place a much-needed additional tier of local protection against the risks of outdoor use of GMOs to our biosecurity, GE free primary producers, economy, environment, and food sovereignty," said GE Free Northland spokesperson Martin Robinson.

"Our councils have taken these steps because their ratepayers want a more locally responsive and planned approach than central government requires," said Mr. Robinson.

The court case is being heard because Federated Farmers of NZ lodged an appeal with the Environment Court, opposing precautionary GMO provisions in the new Northland Regional Policy Statement, the over-arching policy document for resource management in Northland over the next 10 years.

GE Free Northland and Soil & Health (along with 19 other section 274 parties who also made submissions on the GMO issue) support the
Whangarei District Council and oppose Federated Farmers of NZ.

"A planning regime using the RMA would enable truly sustainable integrated management, with a view to ensuring the outdoor use of GMOs is not established in proximity to other sensitive forms of land use,” said Mr Robinson, .“

"Establishing jurisdiction under the RMA would facilitate local involvement in GMO issues and serve to protect existing GE-free primary producers and other ratepayers. This case is of national significance."

“In our view, a strong precautionary approach to GMOs (or even better, outright prohibition) is desirable to prevent potentially enormous costs falling on ratepayers from damage or unforeseen adverse effects from GE experiments or release of GE organisms,” said Mr Robinson.

[ENDS]

Contact:

Martin Robinson, spokesperson GE Free Northland

09 407 8650

mob 022 136 9619

Linda Grammer, chairperson, GE Free Northland

09 432 2155

NOTES

BACKGROUND

Northland Regional Council has (as a result of hundreds of submissions from Northland ratepayers, District Councils, Northland Conservation Board, Iwi authorities, hapu and community groups) placed precautionary GMO provisions in the new Regional Policy Statement. The NRC also identified GMOs as an issue of significance for Northland tangata whenua and an issue of concern for Northland communities.

Councils in Northland, Auckland, Bay of Plenty, and Hawke’s Bay have responded to their constituents’ ongoing concerns about outdoor use of GMOs by investigating the risks posed by GMOs in the environment, and how they can best minimise these risks.

LIABILITY

The work undertaken by local councils on behalf of farmers and other ratepayers is necessary given significant gaps in the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act, including a lack of strict liability, and no mandatory requirement for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take a precautionary approach to outdoor use of GMOs.

Under the HSNO Act there is no requirement for ‘polluter pays’ to ensure companies causing unintended or unforseen adverse impacts from GE crops or GE animals are held responsible.

Potential for accidental damage includes transgenic contamination of soil and waterways, the emergence of herbicide resistant ‘super weeds’, increased herbicide and pesticide use, contamination of existing GE-free primary producers (conventional, IPM and organic). There is also potential for serious economic loss to regions marketing their products and tourism under New Zealand’s ‘clean-green’ brand, if GMO land use is permitted.

THE HEARING

GMO hearing: 10 am, Friday 24 April 2015
Whangarei District Court

Whangarei District Council v Northland Regional Council

ENV-2013-AKL-000159

Whangarei District Council (appellant) seeks to retain and strengthen the existing precautionary provisions and wording on the issue of outdoor use of genetically engineered organisms in the Northland new Regional Policy Statement. Whangarei District Council has legitimate concerns about outdoor use of genetically engineered organisms; that is outdoor experiments and/or field trials or release into the environment of genetically engineered organisms.

Federated Farmers of NZ v Northland Regional Council

ENV-2013-AKL-000161

Federated Farmers of NZ (appellant) seeks that Northland Regional Council remove the precautionary genetically engineered organisms provisions in the Northland new Regional Policy Statement.

RELEVANT CASE LAW IN NZ

Scion vs Bay of Plenty Regional Council 2013

www.boprc.govt.nz/media/321876/environment-court-decision-18-dec-2013-env-2012-339-000041-part-one-section-17.pdf

see also

Soil & Health Association of NZ Press Release, 10 February

Court decision empowers local body protection against GMO risks

www.organicnz.org.nz/node/819

GE Free NZ (Northland) Inc. Press Release, 11 February 2014

Local regulation of outdoor use of GMOs on the rise in NZ

http://web.gefreenorthland.org.nz/press-releases/ge-free-northland/00135-local-regulation-of-outdoor-use-of-gmos-on-the-rise-in-nz


http://web.gefreenorthland.org.nz/news/northland/00154-court-case-for-local-choice-about-gmos

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