"Aggressive" and "violent" - that's how a Green Party member was described as acting after writing an article calling for the resignation of co-leader James Shaw over genetic engineering.
The party's Te Awa magazine refused to run the article, which called on members to take action against Shaw, saying: "We simply cannot have someone weak on the issue [GE] leading the political side.
The article was written by non-toxic pesticide developer Chris Henry, whose involvement in environment causes goes back decades.
It followed Shaw responding to a question about genetic engineering during a television interview, saying he would be "led by the science".
• The Big Read: When an expert killer was visited by the US military's science agency
• Conservation minister opposes GM-rodent plan
• 'Genetic terrorism' claims as big guns of GM set to meet
• NZ scientists running GM field trials
Henry was further troubled when attending a viticulture industry gathering at which Shaw was speaking and the lack of a submission from the party to official discussions around emerging GE technology.
He said there were people present who were pro-GE yet when Shaw came to speak he was silent on the issue.
Henry then submitted an article to Te Awa magazine, which is meant to be separate from the Green Party's parliamentary and party wings.
Acting editor Dave Kennedy rejected the piece, saying: "Your piece conflicts with many of our principles and values when it asks for James' resignation.
"The Green Party's non-violence and appropriate decision-making principles preclude me from publishing your article. You have chosen a confrontational and violent approach to getting attention to your concerns."
Kennedy's rejection letter said the Greens approach to decision-making supported Shaw's position. The party did "value evidence and science in guiding our decisions and this includes GE".
Kennedy disagreed with Henry's perception of Shaw's position, saying "he is often attacked unfairly because of the political game he has to play as minister and Green MP".
Those supporting GE painted the Greens as taking "an emotive, pseudoscience approach" and Shaw's position "was a wise move that does not fall into the trap to discredit him in the eyes of the public [who don't understand the background or detail]".
He said Henry should approach the policy committee of the party "rather than using Te Awa in such an aggressive and non-Green way".
"I appreciate your passion but not your violent approach."
Henry re-wrote the piece, removing the call for Shaw's resignation. Still the piece did not run with Kennedy saying he would approach the party's policy committee and caucus over it.
Kennedy would not discuss the issue with the Herald, saying: "It is the prerogative of the Te Awa editor and the board whether we publish an article or not and it is not appropriate for me to discuss an internal matter with the media."
Shaw would not be interviewed on his views on genetic engineering. A spokesman said it was not appropriate for Shaw to comment on Te Awa decisions, adding that the magazine was independent of the caucus and party executive.
Henry, 66, said Shaw's position on being led by science limited the opposition Green Party members had to genetic engineering.
He said there were also strong economic arguments around rejecting the technology, with New Zealand able to sell itself and its products internationally as GE-free.
But he said the core objection - as in his case - went beyond those arguments to what was effectively a "gut feel".
"It's worldly wisdom we're talking about here. We're talking about man's green, man's arrogance instead of environmental wisdom. It's about man being part of the world, not ruling the world."
Henry described Shaw's position as "soft", saying his statement of being "led by the science" showed he had made his mind up.
"I wouldn't make decisions in this area on science. Science has shown over many years how unreliable it can be."
Henry rejected the claim his position was aggressive. "It's not violent - it's a view that's actively suppressed by the Green Party".
Genetic engineering is a vexed issue in the Greens with the science producing variations that appear to support its environmental aims.
In late 2017, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage stepped in to halt her department's discussions with an offshore organisation looking for trial sites for gene editing techniques. The editing technology, called CRISPR, had been seized upon by some working on the Predator Free 2050 programme.
Massey University head of pasture science professor Peter Kemp said New Zealand needed to again ask the question over whether genetic engineering rules should be changed.
There were a range of developments with positive environmental effects that had been shown not to endanger the wider environment, he said.
Rye grass gene work had produced pasture that reduced methane production while also having a positive impact on animal welfare. Other products included clover that decreased the level of nitrogen on farmland.
"These are good for the environment, not going to cause problems amongst native species and people aren't eating them directly."
Former Greens MP David Clendon - a newly elected Far North councillor - said GE was a "key issue" for the party and was one of the reasons it was in Parliament.
He said there was little appetite in its wider membership for having a debate on the issue. New technologies, such as CRISPR, that might spark such discussion were already seen as GE.
He said party members needed to have faith in decision markers when debate focused on aspects that were narrow and technical.
Clendon said the Greens were suffering the difficulty of taking on Cabinet roles which created "the perception of distance" with its grassroots membership.
It meant the closer politicians got to being part of government, "that trust becomes more important but it becomes easier to erode it".
The column rejected by Te Awa, written by Chris Henry
Nothing has ever energised me more politically than the thought of the release of genetically modified materials into our New Zealand landscape.
My reasons for feeling this way are so deep, they are hard to explain.
It has nothing to do with scientific arguments regarding worth or safety, it is more about respect for the sanctity of life, respect for the forces or God or whatever made our world possible and the distaste for man's arrogance (lack of wisdom) in that he believes he has the capability to interfere in such things, particularly when the motives for doing so are commercially driven.
I was involved years ago with many others in demonstrations leading to the moratorium on GE release in New Zealand.
Genetic engineering has become more subtle with CRISPR and like technology (gene editing and gene splicing within an organism) as opposed to what it used to be of introducing genetic material from one organism into another.
I have been aware of the soft launch of the technology through media, but it really hit home when I went to register for 2019 New Zealand Winegrower's conference (August) and was surprised to find that they were showcasing CRISPR technology.
The conference was called 'Challenging Darwin' and featured as the key note speaker a leading GE advocate from the US. Besides workshops, there was also representation from FSANZ (Food Standards Australia New Zealand) called 'Keep Calm and Don't Panic! Reviewing New Zealand's regulation of food made with new breeding techniques.
It highlighted a submission process already underway where it was proposed to redefine CRISPR and like genetic modified materials so that they fall outside the current legislation (and therefore do not have to undertake the arduous requirements before release of the materials).
Unknown to me our own Environment Protection Authority had earlier actually approved release of CRISPR like materials (ZFN-1 and TALENs) but were found to be in error after application to the High Court by the Sustainability Council in 2014.
The High Court (like the European Courts) simply defined CRISPR as genetic modification and therefore held that the technology was subject to current legislation.
At the time, I objected to New Zealand Winegrowers running such a one-sided presentation and was simply fobbed off. Media were interested for a short time regarding the fact that the conference was in Hawkes Bay which has a GE Free policy and strong grower support to remain that way.
Since then media have also been running interviews of scientists advocating the use of CRISPR technology in New Zealand and beside Shane Jones, the National Party have now publicly stated that they are also interested.
So, I come to the reason for this article, which is the public position of James Shaw (our co-leader) and Green Party policy. Via email, a Green Party policy co-convener agrees that CRISPR and like technology is genetic modification – the policy is against any GE release into the New Zealand environment. A Green Party executive co-convener confirms that the Green Party has made no submission to FSANZ regarding the redefinition of CRISPR technology, but makes no explanation for this failure.
James Shaw was interviewed by Corin Dann on Q+A. Around 13 minutes in when asked about the release of GE organisms James replies 'I would be led by the science on it'.
There are many metaphors that describe what James Shaw did to the collective strength of those opposing GE release.
It saddens me that so much energy has been expended by Green Party members and others to protect New Zealand is now being so easily thrown over by the co-leader of our party.
I believe James Shaw should resign, or in default as a Green Party member authoring this article, I request the Green Party itself censure him, requiring his resignation. If neither happens, I suggest all of us that believe that GE organisms should not be released into the New Zealand environment, should simply vote him off the party list.
The struggle ahead to prevent GE release in New Zealand will not be easy.
We simply cannot have someone weak on the issue leading the political side.