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Councils work together to fund GE Report

Thu, 9 Sep 2004

Whangarei District Council Media Release

8 September 2004

Councils work together to fund GE Report

Whangarei, Far North, Kaipara, and Rodney District Councils together with Waitakere City Council have all agreed to support and jointly fund ($10,000 each) a Risks and Options Report on Genetic Engineering in the Northland peninsula.

The Risks and Options Report will examine in some detail the specific environmental, economic and cultural risks to the region north of Auckland arising from the possible release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to the environment. It will also describe the various options available to local authorities to manage those risks.

These options will range from doing nothing (i.e. leaving regulation of GMOs in the environment to the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996) through to regional prohibition.

This report follows on from an earlier collaborative initiative undertaken by local authorities in Northland looking specifically at whether local authorities have jurisdiction under the Resource Management Act 1991 and the Local Government Act 2002 to address community concerns over land uses involving GMOs.

Following the release of this report, a Working Group on Genetic Engineering was established comprising representation from the local authorities north of Auckland, together with the Northland Regional Council. Whangarei District Council’s staff representative on the Working Party, Kerry Grundy, describes the approach as “a cautious yet responsible way to proceed with the issue”.

“Genetic engineering is a complex and sensitive matter”, he says. “Any action undertaken by local authorities needs to be carefully thought through and rigorously supported by relevant research. The process leading up to a decision on possible regulation by local authorities needs to be transparent and clearly documented”.

“The collaborative approach taken by local authorities north of Auckland is a good example of local government working together to address concerns raised by their respective communities” states Mr Grundy. “GE was one of the prominent issues identified by community consultation on Long Term Council Community Plans in Northland. Continued collaboration on a regional basis is the most efficient and effective way to address this highly contentious and complex issue.”

The Risks and Options Report is expected to be completed by the end of October.

ENDS

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