Whangarei looks set to become the country's first Fair Trade district, following a two-year campaign to promote ethical purchasing.

Products carrying the Fair Trade certification - most famously coffee, tea and chocolate - ensured decent working conditions and terms of trade for farmers and workers in developing countries. In Whangarei, 1200 people had signed a face-to-face petition supporting the concept.

In order to receive the district certification issued by Fair Trade Australia and New Zealand, the district needed a council which promoted fair trade products and values, a ready supply of the products at local businesses, community support and a resolution from the local authority.

Whangarei District Council passed the latter on Wednesday and would now apply officially for the status, edging out competitor district Nelson, also aiming for the milestone.


Councillor Tricia Cutforth was on the Making Whangarei A Fair Trade District working group and said the idea sat nicely with local movements like Whangarei Growers' Market.

"The underpinning ideas are the same. It's knowing where things come from, it's traceability ... It's the gate to plate concept that farmers understand," she said. While the agenda item passed unanimously, not all councillors were as enamoured with the idea as Ms Cutforth. Councillor Phil Halse said he was reluctant to see Fair Trade become part of Whangarei's "brand" without public consultation, while councillor John Williamson said "charity starts at home".

He said there had not been a "tsunami" of support for Fair Trade during the two-year campaign which had included consultation with businesses and community organisations; the petition; and submissions to the council.

"I don't think we should declare that this is now a Fair Trade District on behalf of 85,000 residents," he said.

Mr Williamson said he would prefer an "eco-city" concept which celebrated Whangarei's GE-free, smoke-free and child-friendly aspects, when these were achieved.

But councillor Crichton Christie said the move showed Whangarei "leading the way".

"If every district got there, it may affect the way the Government does its trade agreements. You have to support it on that principle alone," he said.

The WDC would now apply to the certifying body for Fair Trade District status, which councillors expected to be successful.