First steps toward GMO controls in the Far North

Tuesday 19 July 2011, 3:16PM
By Far North District Council


The Far North District Council will go as far as a ‘robust’ analysis of the risks, benefits and costs of creating local management controls for genetically modified plants and organisms in the Far North.

But the council remains a long way from a final decision on whether or not to introduce changes to its District Plan to create mechanisms to either control or ban GMOs completely.

Councillors last Thursday agreed to continue working with the Inter Council Working Party (ICWP) in a collaborative approach towards a Resource Management Act Section 32 analysis of the implications of local control mechanisms.

A budget of $10,000 has been set aside for the joint initiative.

This follows a similar decision by the Whangarei District Council earlier this year.

The approach has been strongly supported by the GE-Free Northland lobby group which sees the Section 32 analysis as the first step towards Northland councils regulating the use of GMOs.

However, the Far North council has made it clear it has not given up hope of convincing central government to take the lead and legislate to protect councils and their communities.

The council intends approaching Local Government New Zealand (through the ICWP) to apply further pressure on the government to come up with national standards, safeguards and indemnities.

The prime concern in the Far North has always been that localised management mechanisms exposed local communities to the cost of clean-ups and cross-boundary liabilities arising from failed GMO programmes.

The Environment Minister has consistently rejected ICWP calls for a government-led approach and has referred councils to their powers under the RMA to make their own GMO rules through the District Plan process.

The Far North wants it made clear that it will not pre-judge the issue and it has no intention of indicating a preference until the Section 32 analysis has been completed and it has recommendations on the table.

If the council decides to proceed with a District Plan change to provide local GMO rules, the long-running debate will be back in the public arena as part of a formal submission process.