National Environmental Standard, Plantation Forestry

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Submission to: Ministry for Primary Industries
Submission Author: Soil & Health Association
Monday, August 10, 2015

To:  Ministry for Primary Industries

Submitter:Soil & Health Association of NZ (‘SHANZ’)

Soil & Health Association of NZ makes this submission partly in support and partly in opposition to the proposed National Environmental Standard Plantation Forestry.

Support: SHANZ supports the NES Plantation Forestry insofar as it seeks to codify activity status and conditions for physical plantation forestry activities on the basis of land and plant related classifications.

The proposed erosion susceptibility classification, wildings spread risk calculator and fish spawning indicator are useful tools capable of measurement and calculation and will provide a degree of rigour to the regulation process.

To that extent, SHANZ agrees that the NES Plantation Forestry will provide a nationwide standard basis for regulation of forestry activities to achieve the stated objectives of change of regulation.

 

Opposition: SHANZ strongly opposes:

a)    the proposal that planting or replanting using genetically modified tree stock (GMO) be a permitted activity, or be provided for under the NES Plantation Forestry at all.

b)    Limiting the pre-requisite approval for permitted activity use of a GMO to EPA approvalunder the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 (HSNO).

c)    The statement in 6.4 of the consultation document that GMOs are regulated by the EPA under the HSNO, without any mention of the role of territorial authorities under the Resource Management Act, 1991.

d)    The absence in the consultation document of any information or discussion about the risks attendant on use of GMOs. Although the objectives of the change (see executive summary) include:-

Understanding the risk of adverse effects on the environment around the country should be informed by up-to-date science.

 

There is no discussion of up-to-date science with respect to GMOs to underpin the provision for use of GM tree stock as permitted activities. Given the controversial nature of this topic and potential adverse effects, this shows a lack of balanced consideration.

 

 

Soil & Health Association of NZ

Soil & Health Association of NZ is the largest membership organisation supporting sustainable, organic food and farming in New Zealand and one of the oldest organic organisations in the world, established in 1941. Our aim is to empower people and communities to grow, buy and support locally based sustainable, safe, GE Free and organic food in Aotearoa NZ. In this process our role is to advocate on behalf of our 3,000+ membership and the general public for safe, healthy food and environmental sustainability for today and future generations.

 

Reasons for Opposition to provision for GM Tree Stock

1.     Genetically Modified Tree Stock Provisions.

a)    Providing for the use of GM tree stock as a permitted activity with no conditions relating to assessment or management of risk leaves land owners, farmers, foresters and people using land and waterways for other activities (including recreation) at risk of adverse effects and without any say in the location or type of GM stock used. This is contrary to the scheme of the RMA. Any potential adverse effects are of particular concern to organic farmers and to foresters with sustainable certification such as the Forest Stewardship Council certification, as all the certification standards for these farmers and foresters do not allow the presence of genetically modified organisms on the land or in the primary products produced

b)    Unlike most other topics covered by the consultation document, the use of genetically modified organisms is not the subject of settled science.  It has been argued by proponents of GM tree stock that the risk of escape of GM material from a plantation is low. However, this is far from settled. Sterile GM trees that do not produce pollen have been in development for some years with no success to date. SHANZ considers that the risk of escape by wind- or insect-borne pollen or seed is in fact high, and pollen from forestry plantations can travel several kilometres. Potential adverse events are very significant and range from the loss of individual enterprises such as organic farms and the loss of Forest Stewardship Certification for foresters, to the loss of whole markets for districts, regions and even New Zealand.  Stringent criteria apply to certification for organic producers and sustainable foresters and some important international markets also require GE-free status certification.

c)    Economic analysis carried out as background to the proposed NES Plantation Forestry did not include economic impact on local and international produce markets arising from the use of GM tree stock. This means that one if not the most significant impact of the proposed NES has not been analysed and the risk of acting as proposed is unconscionably high.

d)    Potential impacts range across virtually all primary production including forestry – horticulture, animal husbandry, honey production and dairy products.  Much wider analysis and consultation is essential before assigning activity status to the use of GM tree stock, let alone the high risk level of permitted activity.

e)    The only condition for this permitted activity is prior approval by the EPA under HSNO and this only applies to planting and replanting. The whole issue of management of slash involving GM material has not been addressed. Potential impacts of GM species on soil ecosystems, water ecosystems and indigenous species ecosystems has not been addressed.

 

2.     Jurisdiction

a)    The Ministry will be well aware of the Environment Court decision in Federated Farmers of New Zealand v Northland Regional Council 2015NZEnvC89.  That decision pointed to the different functional approach between HSNO and the RMA and the complementary roles they play.

b)    SHANZ submits that making the use of GM tree stock a permitted activity under the NES Plantation Forestry flies in the face of the Environment Court decision and purports to limit the regulation of that activity to the EPA acting under HSNO alone.

c)    Regional and district councils have clear duties under sections 30 and 31 for the integrated management of resources and the integrated management of the effects of the use and development of resources. Localised effects of plantation forestry such as erosion, wilding management and fish spawning areas are clearly able to be managed using national standards. However, the use of GMOs which may have region- and district-wide adverse economic, environmental and cultural effects depending on the pattern and type of resources and land-use activities in any given area, cannot be managed through a national permitted activity status. These region- and district-wide functions are very important and would not be addressed by regulation under HSNO.

d)    Attention is drawn to RMA section 43A(3) which states:

If an activity has significant adverse effects on the environment, a national environmental standard must not, under sections (1)(b)  and (4), –

(a) allow the activity, unless it states that a resource consent is required for the activity; or

(b) state that the activity is a permitted activity.

e)    There is risk that the use of GM tree stock could have unmanageable and significant adverse effects over a wide area through, for example, seed spread and pollen blow over many kilometres. Such effects would devastate all GMO Free producers including all certified organic producers and FSC-certified foresters.  SHANZ submits that this activity cannot be made a permitted activity under the NES Plantation Forestry. This activity should be a non-complying activity if it is provided for at all.

 

3.     Assessment

SHANZ opposes the provision for the use of any GMO material under the NES Plantation Forestry. However, if it is so provided for, then comprehensive assessment criteria should also be incorporated that would include reference to the following categories of effects:

a)    Risk of spread of GM material beyond the forest site

b)    Economic and particularly with respect to GE Free producers, organic farmers, FSC-certified foresters and marketing;

c)    Cultural

d)    Social

e)    Mitigation by way of bonds or other financial instruments.

 

4.     Notification

Use of GMOs is an environmental topic with widespread implications for whole communities as well as numerous individuals dependant on maintaining GE Free markets and organic certification for their enterprises and products. Applications for the use of GM tree stock should be publically notified.

 

5.     Relief sought

SHANZ requests the following changes to the proposed NES:

a)    Remove all provision for the use of GM tree stock from the NES

Without prejudice to the above strong first preference, if provision for the use of GM tree stock tree stock is retained, then

b)    Make the use of GM tree stock a non-complying activity;

c)    Make jurisdiction for applications for the use of GM tree stock a regional council responsibility.

 

Signed this 10th day of August 2015

Marion Thomson, Co-chair

Soil & Health Association of New Zealand