16 January 2018
Waikato District Council
2 Dominion Road
Submission on draft Waikato District Plan
1. I make this submission on the draft Waikato District Plan (“Draft Plan”) requesting that it include strong precautionary and prohibitive policies and rules relating to the management of genetically modified organisms (“GMOs”), as allowed under the Resource Management Act 1991 (“RMA”) and pursuant to the ruling in Federated Farmers of New Zealand v Northland Regional Council.
Risks of GMOs
2. I have concerns about the potential risks posed by the release of GMOs into the environment. GMOs have the potential to adversely affect ecological, economic, and resource management values, and the social and cultural wellbeing of people, communities and tangata whenua.
3. The release of GMOs has a potential to cause significant adverse effects on the environment, which could include:
(a) biological or ecosystem harm;
(b) harm to tangata whenua cultural values such as mauri and tikanga;
(c) harm to the cultural values and lifestyle decisions of people and communities at a local level concerning what constitutes their wellbeing; and
(d) harm from GMO contamination to existing or potential forms of land use including farming, forestry, beekeeping, marine farming and other primary production activities dependent on an uncontaminated environmental brand. Adverse effects to these land uses could include:
(i) loss of organic and GMO-free certification;
(ii) reputational damage;
(iii) loss of markets and premiums paid for GMO free produce; and
(iv) loss of livelihood.
4. No matter how carefully conditions of consent for GMOs are crafted, there inevitably remains a risk, even if small, that conditions may be breached by poor management, human error, natural events such as severe storms and even the sabotage of projects.
5. Once GMOs have been released into the environment, they would be very difficult if not impossible to eradicate. In the case of a food product, the “GE free” status of a district would likely be lost permanently along with the market advantages of that status.
6. Application of integrated management and a precautionary approach to GMOs under the RMA is the best available technique for managing the potential adverse effects posed by GMOs within the region.
7. It is consistent with the sustainable management purpose and Part II of the RMA to establish district plan provisions (e.g. issues, objectives, policies, rules and methods) that manage the release, location and management of GMOs where they have the potential to adversely affect the environment and other land use activities.
Decision Sought regarding GMOs
8.The decision I seek from Waikato District Council is that the Draft Plan be amended to include the following:
(a) A resource management framework for the management of GMOs that is regional specific taking into account environmental, economic and social well-being considerations.
(b) Strong precautionary and prohibitive provisions, policies and rules relating to GMOs that are the same (or similar) as those in the Far North District Plan, the Whangarei District Plan and the Auckland Unitary Plan, to ensure a consistent approach across Northland, Auckland and the Waikato and to eliminate cross boundary issues.