Northlanders have six weeks to have their say on how the Northland Regional Policy Statement should address the topic of genetically engineered organisms but anti-genetically modified organisms (GMO) groups say those voices will continue to be ignored.
Northland Regional Council's 10-year policy statement (RPS) is out for submissions until December 3, when independent commissioners will review the document and submissions. GE Free Northland is hoping the review might turn around the council's decision to avoid the subject.
Spokeswoman Zelka Grammer claims the RPS committee deliberately deleted previous content that could ring-fence the region from GMOs, yet the draft plan received more submissions about GMOs than on any other subject. The group made its own submission asking for the reinstatement of the precautionary provision in the RPS. Ms Grammer has accused RPS committee chairman Ian Walker of being pro-GMO and of using his "political and personal influence" to disregard submitters and territorial authorities.
Mr Walker said the GMO topic had not come out as priority under the Section 32 cost-benefit analyses, an outcome that meant "there is little evidence the GE issue exists" (in Northland). Other concerns such as water quality, land use and landscape protection had received high numbers of submissions, survived the Section 32 test, had been identified in the draft and by submitters as urgent, and could be addressed in the RPS's 10-year scope, Mr Walker said.
NRC chairman Craig Brown said he would like the RPS to cover GMOs but he had to back Mr Walker and the committee's reasons for the exclusion - based on analyses carried out by the Auckland to Far North Inter Council Working Party on GMO Risk Evaluation and Management Options.