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ERMA still not up to the job

ERMA still not up to the job

The Government's so-called GE watchdog is still not up to the job, only 7.5 weeks before the moratorium is due to lift, Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today.

"This is yet another reason why the Government should extend the GE moratorium for at least another five years," Ms Fitzsimons said.

"The Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) has hardly started to address the serious criticisms in the scathing independent review of its competence earlier this year."

The review found numerous glaring and gross inadequacies in ERMA, including serious gaps in essential skills like gene technology and environmental effects assessment. It found that ERMA had poor accountability, weak monitoring, skewed weighing of evidence in favour of GE applicants, and a flawed operational structure. The reviewers made 49 recommendations for change.

"But ERMA's latest public progress report on how it has actioned the recommendations, tabled in Parliament this week, does not inspire any confidence. You have to look very hard to find any practical changes," Ms Fitzsimons said.

"ERMA's response to many of the recommendations has simply been to say 'no action required', or to say that 'discussion is continuing internally', which does not inspire confidence.

"In response to the review's serious concern at "tensions" in the relationship between ERMA (the GE condition-setting body) and MAF (the GE condition-monitoring agency), ERMA simply says it will: 'further develop a cooperative arrangement that already functions very effectively'.

"This is not reassuring, when the review clearly found that the relationship was not functioning effectively," Ms Fitzsimons said.

"Environment Minister Marian Hobbs and ERMA chair Neil Walters have said publicly this week they have total faith in ERMA's ability to do the job. This is completely misguided. I have next to no faith in ERMA's ability to competently and fairly consider applications for GE release after October 29.

"If one of the Government's key GE agencies is not even ready for GE, how can New Zealand be said to be ready for GE? The answer is obvious - we are not ready - and more than 68 per cent of New Zealanders know it."

ENDS

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