10/02/2013

Auckland Council Vote is Vital Test for Local Democracy

 

Auckland Council is facing the ultimate test for local democracy as a 'supercity' when
the Plans Committee meet on 12th February to consider the draft Unitary Plan. The issue is whether to allow the public to be consulted on wording on GMO's as proposed by a new report, or to sweep the report under the carpet.

The Final Section 32 analysis on GMO's is the culmination of many years of work by a team from legacy councils in Auckland and the North which jointly commissioned the Inter Council Working Party (ICWP) to consider local risks of GMO's.(1)

There are concerns that some Auckland Councillors are refusing to read the report or to respect its recommendations, because they may have been prejudiced by misinformation in presentations given by industry lobbyists.(2)

There is also concern amongst Local Boards who have been advocating to council for precaution on GMOs, that their voices may be lost in the bureaucratic process or their concerns simply ignored.

"Representatives from across the political spectrum must heed the recommendations of the Section 32 report. The public need those Councillors who oppose a precautionary policy on GMOs in the draft Unitary Plan to set aside their prejudices," said Jon Carapiet, spokesman for GE-free NZ in food and environment.

Independent scientists recently wrote to all Auckland Councillors strongly advising precaution on GMOs and for councillors to resist being misled by organisations with a vested interest in pubic subsidy of commercial risks.(3)

A survey of residents by the council shows that two out of three Aucklanders support local government action to prohibit GMO release or at minimum want users of GMOs held liable for damage. (4)

Local boards have made significant efforts to engage in advocacy for their communities as the dual-governship model for Auckland was designed to allow. How this functions in reality will be evidenced by the degree to which community support for precaution on GMOs is respected in Tuesday's vote.

"This process is the ultimate vitality-test to see how well democracy has survived the disestablishment of legacy councils and the creation of a super city," said Jon Carapiet.

"Aucklanders will not accept an issue of such significance being swept under the carpet."

There has been a decade of community participation in development of plans for the Regional Policy Statement by the Auckland Regional Council, Waitakere eco-city's GE-free zone, and the establishment of local GE-free Zones.

Last December Albert-Eden Local Board passed a motion for a GE-Free Zone in continuation of the declaration made in 1999 by local communities including Waitakere, Western Bays, Waiheke, and Devonport. A motion for a GE-free zone will go before the Waitemata Local Board on Tuesday evening, just hours after the Plans Committee vote on including GMOs in the draft Unitary Plan.

The outcome of the Plans Committee vote will reveal to what degree local democracy has survived council amalgamation, or given way to central government authority and influence by vested interests.

References
1) See www.wdc.govt.nz/PlansPoliciesandBylaws/Plans/Genetic-Engineering/
2) Presentation by Scion to The Auckland Council Economics Forum, 2012
3) Physicians and Scientists for Global Responsibility www.psgr.org.nz
4) Available at www.wdc.govt.nz Survey of residents commissioned by ICWP member- councils in 2009 to understand acceptable level of risk for GMOs

ENDS
Contact - Jon Carapiet 0210507681

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