PRESS RELEASE GE FREE NORTHLAND (in Food & Environment) 26 July 2007
LOCAL AUTHORITIES EXPOSE FLAWS IN THE HSNO ACT WHICH MEANS THAT RESPONSIBILITY FOR GE CLEAN UPS WOULD FALL ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND LOCAL
GE FREE NORTHLAND congratulates the Inter-council Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation and Management Options (comprising the Whangarei, Far North, Kaipara and Rodney District Councils, the Waitakere and Auckland
City Councils, along with the Northland Regional Council) for exposing central governments failure to address the serious flaws and gaps in the HSNO* Act.
GE FREE NORTHLAND recognizes the growing unease within local government as evidenced by the increasing membership of the inter council Working Party on GMOs (Auckland Regional Council recently joined as a full member) over the inadequacies of the present legislation particularly in
regard to liability.
“Despite lobbying over a number of years by Local Government NZ, various local authorities, Rural Women NZ and other groups, central government has failed to put in place a strict liability regime or ensure that ERMA
is required to take a precautionary approach to GMOs,” commented GE FREE NORTHLAND Chairperson Martin Robinson.
“We thank Whangarei District Council for both its timely press release and the leadership shown on the GE issue, in keeping with the WDC adopted precautionary GE policy in the WDC Long Term Council Community Plan 2006-16. We also welcome the inclusion of Auckland Regional Council
and the participation of North Shore City Council in the inter council Working Party on GMOs.”
The recent response from the Minister for the Environment (to a December 2006 letter sent to the Government by the Working Party) clearly indicates the inadequacies of the existing HSNO legislation. The response did not alleviate the concerns raised by the Working Party. In fact, the Minister’s letter made it clear that Central Government has no
intention at this time to amend the HSNO Act to incorporate local government concerns.
This is of particular concern as the government has lifted the
moratorium on GE releases and field trials, which means that at any time a multinational company or Crown Research Institute could apply to ERMA for a GE release or field trial in Northland peninsula.
As local authorities have discovered, if such a GMO release is in accord with an approval from the national regulator ERMA, and subsequent damage arises to either existing land users or to the environment, the costs will lie with the adversely affected parties, and in regard to the environment, with local councils.
This is abhorrent to both ratepayers and local authorities and puts Northland peninsula primary producers in danger of losing their markets and/or premiums due to unwanted GE contamination.
“This is why it is critical that local authorities act now to follow a robust and transparent process (beginning with community consultation and a GE poll) to ensure that changes are made to District and Regional Plans prohibiting GMO land use,” stated Mr. Robinson. “Councils have a duty of care to protect their constituents and the environment.”
“Funds have already been budgeted for this very purpose by a number of member councils of the inter council Working Party.”
GE FREE NORTHLAND appreciates the commitment of local government to address the critical GE issue, as the Labour – led government continues to ignore the concerns of many eminent scientists, local authorities, our farmers and key markets, as well as the majority of New Zealanders.
It is critical that the interests of local government and ratepayers are protected and the risks of GE addressed.
GE FREE NORTHLAND believes the next logical step is achieving enforceable REGIONAL EXCLUSION ZONE status (for GE) for Northland peninsula.
Ideally, a collaborative approach to prohibiting GE activities will be taken by local government on a regional level.
Northland peninsula is ideally placed geographically to achieve this distinction, which would minimise the economic, environmental, public health and liability exposures from GE release and experiments.
GE FREE NORTHLAND calls on Local Government NZ to become further involved in supporting the Northland/Auckland initiative on this critical issue that concerns both local authorities throughout NZ and their communities.
*Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO)
Martin Robinson, Chairperson 09 407 9650 Kerikeri
Zelka Grammer committee member 09 432 2155 Whangarei email:
Contact: Whangarei District Council
Chairperson/Coordinator of the Inter council Working Party on GMOs Dr.
tel. 09 430 4200
freephone: 0 800 932 463