A moratorium on the release of GMOs in Hawke's Bay has been called for by a regional councillor.

At a Hawke's Bay Regional Council meeting yesterday the notice of motion for a moratorium relating to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) filed by Councillor Paul Bailey was discussed, with councillors agreeing it should be progressed in 2017.

The moratorium would be in line with that put in place by Hastings District Council. In May last year, the district council became the first in New Zealand to secure the territory's GMO-free food producer status under its district plan.

In his notice of motion, Mr Bailey stated there had been an "ongoing call" for a moratorium on GMOs from the community.


Earlier this week he said this motion - his first as a regional councillor - reflected how he meant to continue in the role.

He was conscious the GMO-free "movement" created good marketing, and branding opportunities for Hawke's Bay's horticultural sector.

"I think the more opportunities we give our wonderful growers and farmers to create premium [prices] for their product, the better off we're going to be as a region," he said.

A paper before council stated if a moratorium were to proceed, it would be most cost-effective to run a similar process as the proposed moratorium on oil and gas exploration, in parallel with that process.

In this morning's meeting, councillors were recommended to receive Mr Bailey's notice, and refer it to the Regional Planning Committee.

While Mr Bailey's proposal received some support, group manager strategic development James Palmer stated he wanted to manage expectations on it.

He said a piece of work to provide advice to council on all GMO-related issues would be a "substantial body of work", not currently allotted in the council staff work programme, and suggested council seek some preliminary advice around the legal framework and possible issues first.

The issue was "live" nationally, he said, including the proposals from the district council which were not yet settled and the resource legislation amendment bill in Parliament currently.

Councillor Fenton Wilson called the proposal a "waste of resource".

He did not vote for it, stating he "[could] not believe" there was talk of a council putting in place a process for a marketing opportunity benefiting a small section of Hawke's Bay.

Yesterday councillors agreed staff should prepare a summary paper for the first available committee meeting focused on associated legal issues, outlining steps needed to place the moratorium.

Mr Bailey's call was applauded by Pure Hawke's Bay spokesman Bruno Chambers who told Hawke's Bay Today "anything that supports our cause and gets councils behind us is great for Hawke's Bay".

"We believe it's a great initiative for Hawke's Bay, and having the regional council put another layer of protection across our region [would be] fantastic."