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GE-Free Northland Victory Against Federated Farmers of NZ

GE-Free Northland Victory Against Federated Farmers of NZ

31 October 2017 Media Release

GE-Free Northland

Valuable precautionary GMO provisions in the Northland Regional Policy Statement and our democratic right to be GE-free have been secured, with Federated Farmers of NZ finally withdrawing two vexatious appeals on the GE/GMO issue and the jurisdictional issue settled in our favour.

GE-Free Northland, along with appellant Whangarei District Council and other interested parties (including Tai Tokerau mana whenua and the Soil & Health Association) have successfully defended the right of local authorities to manage the outdoor use of GMOs in their region, after Federated Farmers sought a ruling back in 2015 that Northland Regional Council had acted outside the law in taking this approach.

Since comprehensively losing the 2015 Environment Court appeal (which it initiated) on all points of law, Federated Farmers not only filed an appeal against the Environment Court's decision with the High Court, but also (after losing that case as well and costs awarded against FFNZ) went on to the Court of Appeal.

"While our community group is delighted that Federated Farmers have finally withdrawn their vexatious appeals against the Northland Regional Policy Statement, we note that FFNZ waited until just 3 weeks before the Court of Appeal date in Wellington to finally make the right decision. In our view, FFNZ not only wasted their own members' hard earned money and resources, but Northland councils' and ratepayers' time and money as well," said Martin Robinson, GE Free Northland spokesperson.

Federated Farmers had argued that the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) had sole responsibility for the regulation of GMOs under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act. FFNZ disputed the right of local councils to put in place precautionary GMO provisions and the right of local mana whenua to identify Issues of Significance to them.

The broad suite of interested parties standing behind appellant Whangarei District Council, the robust existing case law (unequivocal decisions in our favour by both Principal Environment Court Judge Newhook in 2015* and Justice Mary Peters in the High Court last year), and recent amendments made to the RMA (confirming the High court ruling) led FFNZ to the view that they "are likely to have materially reduced the prospects of the appeal being prosecuted successfully."

Parliament acknowledged last April that local councils can regulate or ban outdoor use of GMOs under the Resource Management Act, in keeping with the wishes of farmers and other ratepayers. Our ability to establish GM-free producing zones under local plans has been shielded by the Resource Legislation Amendment Act 2017,with an exemption introduced under s360D specifically for GE crops, grasses and trees; preventing any Minister from permitting outdoor use of GMOs in regions that had elected to remain GMO free or impose controls on the use of GMOS.

"With the withdrawal of Federated Farmers' appeal on the jurisdictional issue and enforceable GE-free zones protected under the RMA, councils across New Zealand are now free to act on their duty of care to their constituents and the environment, putting in place a much needed additional tier of local protection against the risks of outdoor use of GMOs," said Mr. Robinson.

"We urge Federated Farmers to withdraw their other outstanding vexatious appeals against the Whangarei District Council and Far North District Council excellent collaborative GMO plan changes, the Auckland Unitary Plan, and the Hastings District Plan in Hawke's Bay," said Zelka Grammer, chairperson GE-Free Northland.

"The right of the regions to create enforceable GE Free Zones, and protect primary producers' access to key markets and premiums must be protected," said Grammer. "We thank Whangarei District Council for its leadership, acting on its obligation to both its constituents and to manage to natural resources in a sustainable manner."

Fonterra, Beef & Lamb NZ, Dairy NZ, Zespri, Pure Hawke's Bay, Local Government NZ, various councils, primary producers, and many others have called for protection against Wellington imposing risky GE experiments or field trials in the regions.

"We welcome the change of government, with all 3 parties (Labour, NZ First and the Green Party) committed to NZ's Zero Tolerance Policy for GE content in imported seeds, protection of our biosecurity, economy, wider environment, and the right of the regions to choose to stay GE free," said Martin Robinson.


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