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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Councillors fail GMO test

Environment Southland councillors submit to National Environmental Standard


Last updated 05:00, August 13 2015
Environment Southland will make a submission on a government proposal to create a nationally consistent approach to managing plantation forestry, but agreeing on the wording was not smooth sailing.

Councillors debated an amendment to its submission on the proposed National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry at a council meeting on Wednesday.

The proposed NES would replace regional and district councils' existing district and regional plan rules for managing plantation forestry, creating a nationally consistent approach.

The submission outlines Environment Southland's concerns that the national environmental standard would have a huge impact on the rules the council has in place to manage forestry in Southland and says implementation of the standard could affect the management of regionally specific issues, such as implementing the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and the potential loss of further biodiversity values.

However, councillor Robert Guyton was concerned the council was ignoring an important part of the national environmental standard.

The proposal includes the permitted planting of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

READ MORE: Guidelines an attack on democracy - councillor

Policy and Planning manager Anita Dawe said the council did not have a say on whether GMOs could be planted either way because it was not allowed for in the regional policy statement.

Dawe believed land use restrictions came under the jurisdiction of district councils.

Councillor Neville Cook questioned Guyton's need for an amendment.

"How would we know if such material would be brought in? Are we going to have border security? I don't think it is enforceable on a regional level."

Most councillors agreed it should remain a central government decision.

Councillors Jan Riddell and Guyton both proposed amendments to the submission, asking for a statement about the concerns of the council about GMO planting being a permitted activity.

It was time the council had an opinion on such matters, Riddell said.

"I think that it is about time that this council took a lead on this in the community and formed an opinion on GMO products."

Both amendments were scrapped, with only three council members voting for the amendments to be added.

Following the meeting, Guyton said he was very disappointed the council failed to even try to retain the powers it had to act on behalf of Southlanders.

He believed the council should shoulder the responsibility for deciding on local issues and not "fob" it off to government, he said.

"The majority of the councillors today showed they were unwilling to represent the views of Southland people on genetic engineering and instead preferred to let the government make the decision about whether Southland should lose its GMO-free status."


bsprout said...

I wonder how much understanding of the issue most of the councillors had? Does it need someone from the outside to do a presentation around the ramifications?

robertguyton said...

Too late. A presentation is a great idea though. Every prising-open of the lid is worthwhile in the long run. After all, they are us.