GENET archive


GMO-FREE REGIONS & POLICY: New Zealand‘s politicians pass GE buck on to communities

                                  PART 1

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SOURCE: Bay Chronicle, New Zealand

AUTHOR: Richard Edmondson


DATE:   09.08.2007

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Northland mayors will grapple with the thorny issue of genetic engineering next week following news that communities will be liable for clean-up costs if GE crops contaminate the environment.

Former Environment Minister David Benson-Pope said in a letter to the Whangarei District Council last month that persons affected by GE ’pollution’, not the ’polluter?, will pay for damages if genetically engineered crops contaminate natural crops or the environment.

Far North Mayor Yvonne Sharp says news that landowners and local authorities will be liable for costs is a concern.

”I have always said that it should be a government responsibility. It appears they are now saying that it?s going to be a local government or a local community liability.

”That doesn?t sit very comfortably with me at all.”

She has asked for the issue to be put on the agenda at the next mayoral forum.

”We need to look at it on a Rodney-up basis because boundaries aren’t respected by GE.”

The minister’s announcement gives her council the clarification of liability issues it has sought since a panel of experts advised it on the subject a year ago, she says.

”The council will have to look at the information we now have that we didn’t have before. The Government really is passing everything over to local government if everything goes wrong.”

The Far North District Council will continue to take part in an inter-council working party that has been assessing the risks of GE land uses and management options available to local authorities.

”We have been involved in that since day one and will continue to be involved.”

                                  PART 2

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SOURCE: Stuff, New Zealand

AUTHOR: Rodney Times, New Zealand


DATE:   16.08.2007

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A change of approach by the Rodney District Council has put the ’genetic modification-free Rodney ball’ in the Auckland Regional Council’s court.

Rodney eastern ward councillor Colin MacGillivray’s proposed rule to prohibit planting genetically modified organisms - GMOs - in the open in Rodney gave way to fellow eastern ward councillor Bill Smith’s proposal to allow the regional council to take the lead.

Mr Smith’s proposal is based on ARC chairman Mike Lee’s letter to Margaret Aylward, dated July 30, in which he wrote:

”The ARC opposes the release of GMOs into the Auckland area and agrees such releases should be prohibited.”

As the ARC has power over Rodney’s district plans through a regional policy statement, the district council unanimously supported the ARC taking the lead.

”It is illogical for each local authority to have a different policy on this issue because the environmental effects do not respect boundaries,” Mr MacGillivray says.

”The Rodney District Council’s elected members are concerned about this issue and anxious to know when the regional policy statement to prohibit GM crops is to be created.”

Mayoral candidate Hans Grueber and his ’Protecting our Paradise’ team say the change of approach is detrimental to Rodney.

”A letter from the Minister for the Environment has confirmed that the ultimate responsibility and cost rest with local councils and not the approving authority, ERMA, nor the polluter when GMO contamination occurs,” Mr Grueber says.

”This clarification must be the final warning sign for the council to take urgent action to protect Rodney ratepayers from costs, which can potentially bankrupt the council.”

Mr Grueber wants Rodney to take a political lead to unite the northern councils in banning the release of GM organisms into the environment and to inform all Rodney ratepayers and ask if they are prepared to carry the financial risk of a GMO release in Rodney.

”It is only appropriate to start with ratepayers and not with a costly survey-consultation process of all residents, as it is the ratepayers who will be financially crippled if and when GMO contamination occurs in Rodney,” Mr Grueber says.

”This can be done easily and cheaply by sending out the information and questionnaire with one of next year’s rate bills, which already contain return envelopes.”

                                  PART 3

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SOURCE: Whangarei District Council, New Zealand

AUTHOR: Press Release


DATE:   24.07.2007

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Central Government has recently confirmed that responsibility and costs fall onto local government and local land owners if genetically engineered crops contaminate natural crops or the environment and have to be cleaned up.

A letter from the Minister for the Environment indicates that when or if contamination occurs it will be the person affected by the ”pollution” not the ”polluter” who will pay.

These concerns have been raised by a group of councils worried about their vulnerability on behalf of ratepayers generally, as a result of the way Hazardous Substances and New Oganisms (HSNO) Act has been written.

”Until now Government had not clarified that we would be the ones carrying the can, even though that is clearly the way the act is written,” said working party member, retiring Whangarei District Councillor Robin Lieffering.

”Finally they have agreed that local councils do have a duty of care under their Resource Management Act responsibilities.”

Councillor Lieffering was reporting back to Whangarei District Council on the outcome of a letter to the Minister from the Inter-council Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation and Management Options (comprising the Whangarei, Far North, Kaipara and Rodney District Councils, the Waitakere and Auckland City Councils, along with the Northland Regional Council).

The group met recently to discuss the Minister for the Environment, the Hon David Benson-Pope, response to a letter sent to the Government by the Working Party late last year. The letter outlined a number of concerns held by councils on the Working Party regarding possible future land uses involving genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the Northland/Auckland regions.

The Working Party resolved at its meeting to invite both the Auckland Regional Council and North Shore City Council to join the Working Party and to seek support from Local Government New Zealand, before lobbying Central Government at a higher political level within the Working Party. Auckland Regional Council has accepted the invitation and is now a full member.

It was felt within the Working party that by demonstrating to Central Government the growing dissatisfaction within local government throughout New Zealand to the present legislation regulating GMOs, particularly in relation to liability, Central Government could be persuaded to work with local government to accommodate their concerns.

These concerns include questions over liability for possible harm caused to the environment and potential costs arising from GMO land uses to both existing land users and local authorities. Under the liability provisions in the HSNO Act, existing land users face potential financial loss from contamination (or perceived contamination) of non-genetically modified produce, whilst councils face possible clean up costs for harm or threatened harm to the environment.

The response by the Minister for the Environment was extremely disappointing, according to Dr Kerry Grundy, chairperson and coordinator of the Inter-council Working Party. The response did not alleviate the concerns raised by the Working Party. Indeed, the Minister’s letter made it clear that Central Government has no intention at this time to amend the HSNO Act to incorporate local government concerns.

In particular, and of most concern to those councils on the Working Party, no changes are to be made to improve the liability provisions of the legislation. This means that if a GMO release is in accord with an approval from the national regulator ERMA, and subsequent damage arises to either existing land users or to the environment, the costs will lie with the adversely affected parties, and in regard to the environment, with local councils.

The Bio-tech companies, who develop the technology and the parties releasing the GMOs, will not be liable for costs arising from harm caused to other land users or to the environment. This, according to Dr Grundy, is patently unfair and not in accord with the concept of natural justice nor with the polluter pays principle.

A proposed community consultation programme, including a telephone poll of residents, to gauge community support for local and/or regional regulation of GMO land uses under the Resource Management Act has been re-scheduled until after the October local body elections to allow time for further lobbying of Central Government.


For further information and/or copies of the letters involved, contact:

GE Working Group member

Whangarei District Councillor

Robin Lieffering

434 0751

Dr Kerry Grundy

Whangarei District Council

Phone: (09) 430 4200

Email: kerryg@wdc.govt.govt



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