Another Northland organisation is putting its money where its mouth is — or trying to — regarding Northland Regional Council dumping a prohibitive GMO stance in its regional plan.

But unlike Whangārei District Council which was first to announce its intention to appeal against the Northland Regional Council's (NRC) decision, second prospective appellant GE Free Northland is appealing to the public as well, calling for donations so it can also challenge the NRC in the Environment Court.

''In our view, the NRC has failed to make a sound decision on the critically important GE/GMOs issue, despite the scientific, economic, and cultural evidence presented by submitters supporting provisions to control the adverse effects of GMO use on the environment through the Plan,'' chairwoman Linda (Zelka) Grammer said.

''With help, we can ensure strong precautionary and prohibitive GMO provisions are placed in the new regional plan.''


In July, the vote about including a precautionary GMO stance in the proposed Northland Regional Plan resulted in a hung decision, then tipped by chairman Bill Shepherd's casting vote to exclude it.

The process as well as the decision caused outrage. Observers said the chairman's vote against the status quo did not follow local government protocol; that hearing the issue (in the plan's Coastal Marine component) in a council meeting rather than by independent commissioners was unacceptable; that the end decision ignored 82 out of 83 submissions against GMO trialling or use outdoors; and that the one submission in favour of such was from Federated Farmers NZ, with which Shepherd has had long involvement.

Shepherd referred the Advocate's questions regarding the appeals and the likely cost on ratepayers to chief executive Malcolm Nicolson.

''There are currently 23 appeals on the proposed regional plan, not including those that we may receive on the council decision to not include GMO provisions,'' Nicolson said.

For the 2019/2020 financial year, the NRC has budgeted approximately $430,000 for professional services and staff time to deal with all appeals on all matters.

Nicolson reiterated the regional plan's job, which ''sets out the rules and policies for how people use fresh water, land, air and the coast in Northland'', and the Resource Management Act's part.

''Given the significance of the plan (five years in the making), the RMA process is prolonged and [the] council certainly does anticipate and plan for appeals.''

Nicolson said appeals to the GMO decision must be lodged by September 14, and until then he can not draw conclusions on what any appeals may involve.


Grammer said GE Free Northland was urging the Far North District Council to work with the WDC and other interested parties, including local iwi and farmers, who want to appeal the NRC's decision.

Those councils, as was the NRC, were part of a group including the Auckland Council which drafted policy preventing the outdoor introduction of GMOs from Auckland's southern boundary to Cape Reinga. Kaipara District Council has not yet formulated its GMO policy.

''Northland's valuable agricultural, horticultural, apicultural, pastoral, forestry sector, and 'Northland, Naturally' brand must be protected, as Auckland Council has already achieved in its region,'' Grammer said.