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Council can introduce precautionary GMO provisions

Northland Regional Council can introduce precautionary GMO provisions.

Federated Farmers of New Zealand (FFNZ) has abandoned its legal challenge in the Court of Appeal, [1] regarding GMO provisions in the Northland Regional Policy Statement (RPS). The Northland Regional Council will now be able to implement precautionary GMO provisions in the Regional Policy Statement, after a delay of two years.

We congratulate all the respondents, the Whangarei District Council, Northland Regional Council, the Soil and Health Association, [2] and all 274 parties who defended the right of the Regional Council to make planning decisions about the outdoor use of GMOs in their region.

FFNZ mounted a series of challenges, the first to the Environment Court in 2015 where they argued that the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) had sole responsibility for the regulation of GMOs under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO). Principal Environment Court Judge Newhook found that there is jurisdiction under the Resource Management Act (RMA) for Regional Councils to make planning decisions about the outdoor use of GMOs in their regions. This judgment was not accepted by FFNZ and they took the case to the High Court, where Justice Mary Peters, 31 Aug 2016, upheld the Environment Court ruling. Subsequently, FFNZ further challenged the ruling to the Court of Appeal.

Federated Farmers of NZ's decision to withdraw its appeal comes after the failure to pass alarming changes to the RMA, proposed by the Minister for the Environment, Nick Smith, and supported by Federated Farmers. The changes would have prevented councils and communities from placing precautionary controls on the management of GMO's in their regions and allow Ministers to override and annul local body decisions. Although no longer represented in Parliament, the Maori Party was instrumental in “carving out” these changes and introducing amendments to the RMA, where GMO policies are expressly exempt from Ministerial interference (s.360D) when placed in Council plans.

"It is now enshrined in law that all councils are able to place precautionary and prohibitive GMO policies in their plans” said Jon Carapiet, national spokesman for GE-Free NZ.

“We endorse the call by GE Free Northland asking Federated Farmers to withdraw their outstanding appeals against Whangarei District Council and Far North District Council the Auckland Unitary Plan, and the Hastings District Plan on the GMO plan changes”.

The NRC is now able to implement the GMO wording in their Northland Regional Policy Statement. The proposed Regional Plan for Northland is now open for submissions, and support for precautionary and prohibitive GMO provisions, policies, and rules are also needed. The submission period closes closing on Wednesday 15 November at 4pm. [4]


[1] CA 541/2016 Notice of Abandonment of Appeal https://goo.gl/SZbRCy

[2] A win for clean, green, GE-free New Zealand http://mailchi.mp/organicnz/test-email?e=b4736ee026

[3] 360D - Regulations that prohibit or remove certain rules

[4] All details on how to make a submission in response to the NRC proposed regional plan


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