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"We are not overly impressed with some councils wasting ratepayer resources on trying to ape the EPA": Katie Milne

Rural News
"We are not overly impressed with some councils wasting ratepayer resources on trying to ape the EPA": Katie Milne

Content supplied by Federated Farmers

With some councils trying to regulate genetically modified organisms, Federated Farmers is backing a move by the Minister for the Environment, the Hon Amy Adams, to clarify who has regulatory responsibility for the management of GMOs. 

“Federated Farmers would welcome amendment to the Resource Management Act to “clarify the respective functions and roles of the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and local government,” as the Minister put it,” says Katie Milne, Federated Farmers Local Government spokesperson.

“We are not overly impressed with some councils wasting ratepayer resources on trying to ape the EPA.  As Minister Adams put it, councils should not “set up their own independent states where they write their own rules and ignore the national framework”.

“Especially when those rules are based on what seems to be ‘pub-talk’.

“A Northland inter-council working party’s draft section 32 analysis recommending ‘local regulation’ to restrict GMO’s, only references one website known for its anti GMO stance, one anti-GMO book and one of the key proponents for local regulation."

“A section 32 analysis should be based on sound science but this analysis is neither unbiased nor rigorous.  It puts these councils on a collision course with the EPA, which does possess the brainpower and resources to test more than an internet search engine."

“Bizarrely, the Northland inter-council working party’s analysis makes no mention of the GMO based equine influenza vaccine, which is currently approved for conditional release in New Zealand."

“Nor, I must add, what the cost to Northland’s bloodstock and racing industries would be if councils tried to block its use."

“That’s why the legality of councils regulating GMOs is highly questionable.

“Federated Farmers view, shared by Minister Adams, is that the only appropriate way to make these decisions is through careful scrutiny of the science.  We entrust the EPA with the scientific and funding resources to make these types of scientific assessments."

“Councils need to stick to their knitting and regulating GMO’s is not it,” Katie Milne concluded.

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It's time Fed Farmers referred matters like this to the Auditor-General. These councils are almost certainly acting ultra vires and it is the role of the AG to determine whether that is so.


Late last year the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment 2012 was passed. Crucially s(7) abolished the "well-beings" part of the purpose of local government and replaced it with:


“(b)"to meet the current and future needs of communities for good-quality local infrastructure, local public services, and performance of regulatory functions in a way that is most cost-effective for households and businesses."


While all councils have paid lip service to the new legislation in their draft Annual Plans this year I doubt they have truly internalised what it means. The councils mentioned above are trying to regulate an area that is already regulated by the EPA and presumably violating the "cost-effective" requirement in the process.


The Property Council should also refer the decision of the Wellington City Council to ignore the advice of their own CEO and proceed directly to earthquake proofing the old Town Hall. While it may prove to be the right decision there is no indication that in making their decision the Council complied with the requirements fo the new Act.


All councils need to understand that the bar just got higher over how they commit their resources even it it is only a bit of staff time.