Keeping Hastings GMO-free is a step closer, after a high court ruling yesterday.
The High Court upheld a ruling that regional councils have the right to decide on the provisions, policies, and rules regarding the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in their region.
Judge Mary Peters ruled in favour of the Whangarei District Council, Northland Regional Council, Soil & Health, GE Free Northland and others, dismissing the appeal by Federated Farmers.
For Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule, the news was pleasing, as it gave the council the opportunity to proceed with its GMO-free district plan policy change. In May last year, Hastings District Council became the first in New Zealand to secure the territory's GMO-free food producer status under its district plan.
Later this year the council will defend its GMO-free policy in the Environment Court - a policy which was appealed by Federated Farmers. Now, with the ruling upheld, the council can proceed with the court process.
The news was also welcomed by lobby group Pure Hawke's Bay, which threw its weight behind the council in defence of the policy. On behalf of the group's members, Bruno Chambers said they were overjoyed with the ruling.
"It's good to see the principle upheld that local governments have got the authority to decide on such important questions."
Federated Farmers appealed the Environment Court's ruling in May 2015 that there was jurisdiction under the Resource Management Act for local councils to control the use of GMOs via regional policy.
President William Rolleston said the full potential of GMOs would never be realised if central government was not given full jurisdiction to regulate their use.