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Regional Council Vote Leaves Northlanders Feeling Betrayed

16/07/2019


The Northland Regional Council (NRC) has voted to exclude all GM/GE precautionary provisions in its regional plan, despite years of community engagement showing support for such protection. There is a sense of betrayal following the way the NRC Chairman prevented debate or consideration of the staff recommendations regarding the GE/GMO options as set out in agenda item 5.1 Appendix 1 & 2 [1], swiftly passing a motion to exclude GMO's from the plan.

In a serious departure from governance procedures, the Council chair, Bill Shepherd, chose not to place the two options up for initial debate and instead went straight to voting where he cast his vote twice, once as a member and the casting vote as chair, voting to exclude all of the GE/GMO precautionary provisions. This vote was out of order, but the chair ignored all opposition to the questionable process that went against the wishes of local District Councils, mana whenua and submitters who wanted the NRC to exercise precaution in keeping with the GE/GMO policy in the Northland "Regional Policy Statement". (The vote was drawn, 4 votes each against and for)*.

The process has been highly contentious with behind-closed-door meetings, concerns have been expressed about political interference and delays that limited the discussion to the Coastal Marine Area (CMA) rather than addressing the risks to soils and waterways in the whole region.

The NRC received 83 submissions, of which 82 asked that precautionary GE provisions be placed in the plan. Only Federated Farmers submitted in opposition.

After two years of deliberation and delays, the council sought the advice of expert planners and lawyers. All of these advisors found that council was able to place GE precautionary rules in the plan without any cost to the community, in accord with other district and regional authorities.

"Mr. Shepherd has betrayed his community and ignored the experts making a mockery of the consultation process,” said Claire Bleakley, president of GE Free NZ.

“This overt manipulation of process due to Mr. Shepherd’s personal heavy involvement with Federated Farmers constitutes a serious breach in his duty of care as a democratically elected representative of his community. His actions go against his statement “I stand for governance with integrity — council shouldn’t be about ethical compromise”” said Bleakley [2]

GE Free NZ will be seriously considering challenging this undemocratic decision and flawed process that has seen the community betrayed by some of its leading elected officials.

*For: Shepherd, Stolwerk, Bain, Sinclair, Shepherd used his casting vote as Cr Smart was excluded
Against: Finlayson, Yoeman, Blake, Dimery

References:

[1] Northland Regional council Agenda 16 July 2019 http://northland.infocouncil.biz/Open/2019/07/CO_20190716_AGN_2417_AT_WEB.htm

[2] Bill Shepherd http://www.billshepherd.co.nz/political/

[3] https://www.gefree.org.nz

ENDS:

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