An agreement has been struck between Auckland Council and Federated Farmers to remove a statement prohibiting GMOs in the Hauraki Gulf Islands despite strong public opposition.
Counsel for Federated Farmers and Auckland Council lodged papers with the Environment Court on Monday asking for sign-off on the draft consent order.(1)
This is after last Friday's meeting of the Auckland Council's Hearings committee which decided to follow the direction set by Council officers. This has seen the systematic removal of policy statements for precaution on GMO's that once existed in legacy Council Plans.
Instead of the District Plan prohibiting GMO release the agreement opens the way for GMOs under general approval of the EPA for release of any new organism.
The deal creates an illusion of protection but plays into the hands of industry lobbyists including Federated Farmer's vice-president Dr William Rolleston who is a lead advocate for GMO's and sits on the government's science boards. Forestry group Scion are also opposing the precautionary statements in plans for the Bay of Plenty.(2)
This is part of a concerted campaign by industry to roll back environmental protection and the new Auckland Council are being complicit by removing precautionary policies developed by legacy councils.
The removal of prohibition of GMOs in the Hauraki Gulf is in direct opposition to the recommendations of the inter-council working party (ICWP) on GMOs of which Auckland Council is a member. The ICWP identified a plan change prohibiting release of GMOs as the most effective protection for the region.(3)
"This is a Clayton's protection that gives no long term safeguard for the integrity of the Hauraki Gulf from GMOs," says Jon Carapiet, spokesman for The Auckland GE-Free coalition.
The public has previously been reassured by Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse and senior officers that no decision to delete the prohibition on GMOs had been made by the new Auckland Council.
"Now the decision has been made, and the outcome is a betrayal. By following the direction of officers the Hearings committee has worked counter to the community interest."
The move by Auckland Council ignores widespread community opposition and independent scientific advice for precaution on GMOs, as well as policy advice warning that the EPA cannot adequately protect local and regional community interests from damage from GMOs.
Community concern amongst residents of Waiheke and Great Barrier Island has been sidelined. They will be denied a say in the Unitary Plan consultation because it does not cover the Hauraki Gulf Islands.
Local Boards across Auckland have raised the alarm about at the direction being set by the governing body but so far to no avail.
Despite the alarming loss of democracy that is emerging, the draft Unitary Plan consultation is another chance for public to demand protection for the region and for future generations.
Jon Carapiet - 0210507681
Penny Hulse - Deputy Mayor (021) 273-4663
Mike Lee - Councillor (027) 494-3198
1) Federated Farmers appeal : ENV-2009-AKL-000323 - Memorandum of Counsel, Monday 25 February 2013