The definition of "crops" as per a Maori Party amendment to the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill became a political football yesterday with claims of victory for Hastings' GM-free status countered by accusations people were being "spun a line".

On Tuesday night, changes negotiated by the Maori Party exempted GM crops from any attempt by the Environment Minister to override local government decisions regarding their regions' GE status.

Yesterday, however, Labour shadow environment minister David Parker said the Maori Party amendment did not achieve what they said it did.

He said that while it went some way to protecting districts from the minister's override power it did not go far enough, in that it had a narrow focus on "crops" which did not include GM grasses or pasture.


"This was exposed in Parliament when Minister Nick Smith confirmed this in the debate when he correctly quoted the Oxford dictionary meaning of 'crops' - the produce of cultivated plants such as cereals, vegetables or fruit.

"He conceded this in the debate and now they are trying to dig themselves out of a hole, and spin a line - the courts will look at this definition of crops, which doesn't include pine trees, grasses and animals."

When challenged about this in Parliament, Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox said the wording of the supplementary order paper had been negotiated with Pure Hawke's Bay.

She said Pure Hawke's Bay had asked that rather than talk about crops for pasture, or crops for human or animal consumption or crops for forestry that the more general term "crops" be used.

"They asked us to use crops, not to determine by their individual parts, because then if we had missed out bits accidentally and specific in law it's too late."

She said that the wording agreed to with the minister's office was that regions would retain the ability under local plans to regulate all kinds of GM crops including forestry and grasses and any activities associated with growing GM crops for commercial or any other purposes.

Pure Hawke's Bay president Bruno Chambers said the organisation had sought legal advice and that their understanding was that crops also encapsulated grasses and pastures.

"Marama's speech was fairly categorical that crops cover grasses and trees as well."

The amendment also didn't include animals, an area that was covered in the Hastings District Plan since 2015 with rules prohibiting GM releases.

Mr Chambers said in terms of animals there was "nothing on the horizon to worry about".

The minister of the day would still have to introduce rules that prevent councils from regulating GM livestock farming under their local plans, he said.

"That is a political fight any government would be foolhardy to pick, given the huge backing from the Hawke's Bay food export economy and the wider community."

In response to Mr Parker's claim that the definition of crop as referred to by Dr Smith was very narrow, Mr Chambers said he expected Ms Fox would reiterate her stand at the third reading of the bill, which was expected to take place today.

Mr Chambers said Pure Hawke's Bay had sought deeper advice than the Oxford dictionary.

"We have had a QC look at it - we are very comfortable with the position we have arrived at, and we hope we don't have to take it further as it has been a long and unnecessary battle with Wellington."