Press Release by Karen Summerhays- Scion vs Bay of Plenty Regional Council

Former Bay of Plenty Regional Councillor Karen Summerhays has put out a highly interesting press release, about a NZ Crown Research Institute (Scion, formerly "Forest Research") taking a local council to the Environment Court over the GE issue

5 November 2013

Press Release – for immediate release

An Environment Court Hearing will be held on the 28th and 29th November, at the Oceanside Resort Conference Room, Mt Maunganui, to defend the BOP Regional Councils precautionary approach to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in the environment.

The Crown Research Institute, SCION, has appealed the inclusion of precautionary wording forcing the BOPRC to defend the inclusion of a precautionary approach in the Regional Policy Statement

Five parties have joined the Council’s defence as Section 274 Parties; they are Soil & Health NZ, GE Free in Food and Environment NZ, GE Free Northland and two individuals: John Sanderson and former Regional Councillor, Karen Summerhays.

Soils & Health NZ, on behalf of the 274 Parties, have engaged Barrister Robert Makgill as their legal counsel and as well as expert planning, scientific and cultural evidence there will be evidence presented from primary production sector of the Bay of Plenty.

Soil & Health is one of a number of organisations, and individuals, that have strived for the last two decades to keep New Zealand’s environment GMO free; this status benefits both conventional and organic primary producers who can market their products as GMO free.

The 274 Parties maintain that there is enough scientific uncertainty around the release of GMOs in the environment to warrant a precautionary approach; not just from the environment’s perspective but also socially, economically and culturally and that the release of GMOs into the environment needs to be managed as a land use activity, on a case by case basis, so as not to damage other primary industries, both organic and conventional farmers, who wish to continue to enjoy the benefits of growing and providing GMO free produce.

As it has now been shown that buffer zones don’t work so this case is significant; especially in light of the recent statements by the Minster for the Environment announcing her intentions to ban Councils from being able to manage the placements of GMOs within their local environment.

Former Regional Councillor, Karen Summerhays, who initiated this work when she was in office, says “We have to stand up and make sure that the right to retain our region’s GE free production status for our communities, primary producers and industries, is available through integrated land use management.”

“Even though this is just one step along the way, I want to congratulate the BOP Regional Council for recognising there are risks to their constituents and that turning a blind eye was not an option”.

Karen Summerhays
Former Bay of Plenty Regional Councillor
59 View Rd
Henderson 0612
021 0437858

Appendix 1

The BOP Regional Council (BOPRC) precautionary wording in their Proposed Regional Policy Statement (RPS) states:

BOP Regional Policy Statement 

Section 1.7     Precautionary approach.

 The ability to manage activities can be hindered by a lack of understanding about environmental processes and the effects of activities. Therefore, an approach which is precautionary but responsive to increased knowledge is required.

 It is expected that a precautionary approach would be applied to the management of natural and physical resources wherever there is uncertainty, including scientific, and a threat of serious or irreversible adverse effects on the resource and the built environment.

It is important that any activity which exhibits these constraints is identified and managed appropriately.  Although those intending to undertake activities seek certainty about what will be required of them, when there is little information as to the likely effects of those activities, public authorities are obliged to consider such activities on a case-by-case basis.

Such consideration could be provided for in regional and district plans, through mechanisms such as zoning or rules enabling an assessment of effects through a resource consent process, or through other regulation such as bylaws.  Any resource consent granted in such circumstances should be subject to whatever terms and conditions and/or reviews are considered necessary to avoid significant adverse effects on the environment and protect the health and safety of people and communities.

The existence of genetically modified organisms in the environment has generated community concern. Of particular concern is the placement and location of trial and containment facilities.

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council promotes a precautionary approach to the release, control and use of genetically modified organisms within the region. The precautionary approach is a necessary response to unresolved issues relating to potential environmental risks, economic costs, and cultural and social effects.

The Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 (“HSNO Act”) contains specific legislation for managing genetically modified organisms.   These legislative functions are carried out by the Environmental Protection Authority. Where appropriate the Resource Management Act may complement and supplement the HSNO Act to regulate in this area. 


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