Cautionary approach urged

By Lindy Laird

The Northland Conservation Board will continue to press for a precautionary approach on genetically modified organisms to be specified in the Northland Regional Policy Statement.

Board members will speak in support of its submission during to the RPS hearings this week. The issue was discussed at the board's meeting on May 31 - its last public meeting of the year.

NRC chairman Craig Brown gave the board background to the RPS process. He said the majority of councillors on the policy committee had voted against including specific text on GMOs despite an overwhelming number of supporting public submissions.

The board has also written to Northland Regional Council expressing concerns about the policy committee's decision to omit precautionary text.

Not quite as hot a topic was the Northland Kauri National Park proposal, which has gone on the backburner.

The meeting heard that stumbling blocks include the definition of "co-governance" between iwi and the Crown, kauri dieback (PTA), and whether all Northland Waitangi Treaty claims should be settled before a decision is made on a Kauri National Park.

The board is concerned its own role in a number of issues will be affected by broad changes to the Department of Conservation's structure, taking place from September.

The changes are designed to focus field staff on frontline conservation work, with a new business arm developing joint ventures and sponsorship for conservation projects.

The number of conservancies will shrink from 11 to six regions.

The Northland board will support staff during this "stressful transition phase wherever possible," chairman Mita Harris said.

The potential implications on Conservation Boards was also of concern, he said. The Minister of Conservation is considering the board appointment process and boards' future composition.

In the meantime the Northland board will focus on its review of the Conservation Management Strategy (CMS), and postpone public board meetings until 2014.

"However, this does not mean that the board will not continue to engage with the public at every opportunity in the meantime," Mr Harris said.

Retiring board members Helene Leaf, William Goodfellow and Peter O'Hara were thanked for their valuable contribution.

People can provide feedback and leave comments on the board's web pages on the DoC website. The board is also investigating other platforms to keep open dialogues with the community and iwi.

- Northern Advocate

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