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A meeting of the Auckland Council's Regional Development and Operations committee erupted in argument and a senior councillor was ejected, after revelations that a council panel has decided to delete wording in the Hauraki Gulf Island District Plan designed to protect the islands from damage by genetically modified organisms.(1)
Former chair of the Auckland Regional Council Councilor Mike Like was shocked to hear legacy council policies had been removed from the plans and spoke against the secret deletion of the clause in the Hauraki Gulf Island plan. He was forced to leave the meeting after refusing to apologise for blaming senior council officers for the debacle.
Officers were challenged to explain the decision but in their responses to reassure the committee they appear to have deliberately misled councillors by saying no decision by council to delete the GMO wording had been made.
This is not the case. Evidence available on the Auckland Council website shows the council hearing panel has already decided to delete the wording from the plan, prior to a court hearing of appeals to the plan.(2)
"This is a shocking failure of democracy and governance. There has been a deliberate and covert effort to remove the policies of legacy councils that relate to community concerns for protecting GMO-free natural environments like the Hauraki Gulf," says Jon Carapiet speaking for GE-free Auckland communities.
'Waiheke Island has been a GE-free zone since 1999, but with stealth the protections for the community vision provided in the District Plan have been removed and watered down."
"Community Boards and Councilors have been blindsided and further misled in the answers given by council officers at the Regional Development and Operations committee meeting," says Jon Carapiet.
A formal complaint has been made to the committee chair about the misleading information given to councillors by council officers at the committee.
Though the decision to delete the clause has yet be signed off in court, the council panel decision is final and cannot be challenged before the appeal hearing, even though the basis of the decision is clearly flawed.
The justification used to delete mention of GMOs doesn't make sense.The panel decision to subsume GMOs under new organisms reduces the council's capacity to regulate damage from GMOs. Under the amended wording they will cease to be subject to regulation when no longer deemed new.
1) 18 October 2012 - Auckland Council - Regional Development and Operations Committee
2)Extract from the Auckland Council Decision Report on Hauraki Gulf Island District Plan Appeal