GM-free groups mount pressure on Maori Party over proposed law change
Regions which have declared themselves GM free are pressing the Maori Party not to support Government moves to strip away local powers to create GM-free zones.
Community leaders, local iwi, mayors, growers, exporters, and farmers have mounted a social media campaign. One of the high profile lobbyists is former All Black captain Taine Randell, who owns freeze dried snack food company Kiwi Garden.
Environment Minister Nick Smith has vowed to amend the Resource Management Act to remove the ability of local government to create GM-free zones, but Maori Party support is needed to pass the legislation.
So far Hastings, the Far North, and Whangarei regions have declared themselves GM-free, while Auckland has prohibited genetically modified organisms in its unitary plan.
Federated Farmers has said councils' GMO rules could affect a Pexa-Vec liver cancer trial at Auckland Hospital, but Auckland councillor Penny Hulse said allowing regions to make their own decisions would not impact on life saving drugs because medicines were excluded from all the regional GM-Free plans.
"We want to keep the Auckland region GM Free in field and food so we are not putting life saving medicine at risk. We are simply saying let us make our own decisions as a region and how we want to live," Hulse said.
Smith says he favours the Environmental Protection Agency, not councils, to control GMO use.
Under Clause 360D in the RMA Bill the Government can stop regions from making their own decisions on key issues, such as whether their territories remain GM Free.
Late last year in a letter to Smith, Maori Party co-leaders Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox said the proposed powers "extend beyond what we understand was intended in the discussions that the Maori Party have had with you on this matter".
The letter said the Maori Party would not support section 360D if it allowed a minister to overrule provisions in a plan, such as a GMO-free zone.
Fox said she and Flavell shared others' concerns about GMO products, and wanted Smith to make his intentions explicit in the law.
She said on Friday she had received a response from Smith but was not satisfied with it, and would be taking the matter up when Parliament resumed.
The group supporting their right to GM-free status have created a video fronted by Ngati Kahunaungu chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana and also includes Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule, Whangarei mayor Sheryl Mai, Far North deputy mayor Tania McInnes, Hawke's Bay Regional Council chairman Rex Graham, Randell and Hulse.
Federated Farmers president William Rolleston said it was a "panic" move by the group, and it was incorrect over the use of GMOs in medicines.
"The best way forward would be to take applications on a case by case basis and approve those which would be of benefit to New Zealand."
Rolleston said the Government could use other mechanisms such as making a national policy statement that councils could not create GM-free areas.