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Voters' chance to challenge councils on GE-Free

16 September 2004
Voters' chance to challenge councils on GE-Free Zones

The Green Party says the local body elections, for which voting starts this weekend, are an opportunity for people to ask their prospective councillors where they stand on legal moves on the creation of local GE-Free Zones.

Local Government NZ, the Northland councils and Environment Bay of Plenty are currently involved in a legal advice process on whether and how local authorities can set rules, including GE-exclusion zones, for any GMO release approved by the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA).

"The councils are not seeking to do their own scientific risk analysis," said Jeanette Fitzsimons, the Green Party's GE Spokesperson.

"But they are required under the Local Government Act 2002 to protect the economic, social, environmental and cultural wellbeing of their communities and therefore believe that they may be entitled, or even obliged, to exclude GMOs on those grounds.

"Although central government has done its best to ensure that local bodies have no say on the use of GE, some councils recognise they may have a legal and moral responsibility to seriously consider setting up GE-Free Zones in their regions.

"Therefore, one of the best ways for local voters to put GE-Free Zones on their councils' agenda is to elect representatives that fully understand how this issue is developing and are prepared to really stand up for their community."

District and city councils control the use of land. If any GE crop is approved for release by ERMA (so far none have applied) councils could protect the interests of future land purchasers by ensuring GE crops are registered on the Land Information Management (LIM) report.

"The LIM is a register of all information the council holds on a property, which includes risks like instability and contamination. Prospective owners have a right to know what has happened on the land they are looking at buying, so the LIM report should also record where GE crops or animals have been grown," said Ms Fitzsimons.

The Green Party is suggesting voters ask local candidates the following questions over the next three weeks.

To regional council candidates:

Will you work to protect the region's ecology and economy from the release of GMOs into the environment?

To mayoral, district and city council candidates:

Will you protect the rights and interests of landowners by ensuring that any growing of GE plants and animals is registered on the LIM report for the property concerned?


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