Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Anti-GMO win in the north

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Northland Regional Council has agreed to put provisions against genetically modified organisms into its regional plan covering the coastal marine area.
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It has reversed an earlier, narrowly supported decision to leave such provisions out, which attracted the ire of all GMO opponents.

It led to the defeat of former chairman Bill Shepherd in last year’s local government elections after he used a casting vote in favour of the non-provision status quo.

He was ousted by anti-GMO campaigner and Kerikeri organic grower Marty Robinson.

Last week the council was told its non-inclusionary position in an Environmental Court appeal process is now untenable because three organisations had withdrawn their support.

They were the Life Sciences Network, Biotech New Zealand and Federated Farmers.

The appeal was launched by Whangarei District Council and Far North District Council, both of which have anti-GMO regulations.

There was considerable public debate about two local councils using ratepayers’ money to take a third council through an Environment Court appeal but GMO opponents would not let the matter rest.

About 10 protesters attended the regional council meeting and one was expelled from the chamber for repeatedly speaking without right.

The council’s strategic policy and planning manager Ben Lee said the earlier decision not to defend its position will likely lead to defeat, criticism by the court and costs awarded against it.

Nevertheless, his recommendation was to maintain the position and actively defend it.

Staff members couldn’t provide advice on whether the council should change its position because there had been a council decision and they are required to support it.

A motion to change was put by two councillors and passed six to two with Robinson abstaining because of a conflict of interest. He is a spokesman for GE Free Northland.

Cr Rick Stolwerk warned that if safe GMOs are found it will cost the council $100,000 and two years of further debate to revise the regional plan.

Four councillors have been tasked with drawing up precautionary non-GMO provisions and resolving the appeal.

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