Local Authority (LA) Consideration of Implications of Release of GE Organisms

One of the areas of activity to be focused on this year is the raising of concern at the local government level about the implications of conditional and full release of GE organisms into the NZ environment.

Regional Councils (RCs) and Unitary Authorities (UAs) are likely to be involved in monitoring any releases of GE organisms and reacting to any adverse consequences of them. However, territorial authorities (TAs) (city and district councils and unitary authorities) regulate land use so this applies to them too.

The Annual Plan process of LAs is currently underway, ask yours to consider the implications of releases of GE organisms in your area. There is an immediate opportunity to get councillors to focus on the issue, later when public submissions are called for there will be another chance. It's important to use these opportunities.To get LAs to put in place GE free zones that have legal status is a lengthy process so we must start now.

Below is a list of questions to prompt councillors to get your local authority to consider the issue. Ask your local authorities to consider the issue hopefully seeing the need to regulate GE free zones in your area.

Approach your councillors now, introduce the idea that your council may need to allocate resources for considering the impacts of GE release.

When public submissions are called for, submit that your council should allocate some funding and personnel time to investigate the issue.

Provide council staff and councillors with good information on the issue, establish contacts with the people from your LAs likely to be involved in considering the GE issue. Help them become fully informed and if you need any help email us.

Following are suggested questions, put them into their own words and direct them to all councillors.Unitary Authorities (both regional council and district/city council) can receive questions from both lists. Questions about either sets of questions, contact Karen Summerhays 07-544-3858,  ksummerhays@xtra.co.nz

Questions to ask Regional Councillors, City and District and Unitary Authority Councillors 
Does our council have a policy on the release of genetically engineered organisms in our region?

1)      Is our council forming, or intending to form, a policy on GE organisms in our region and, if so, what is the schedule for its development and adoption?

2)      Should companies, which develop, promote or import GE organisms be responsible for monitoring use and containment or should this be independent?

3)      Are you aware that the government has suggested that the council may have a role in monitoring conditional release of genetically engineered organisms?

4)      How prepared (equipment, skills, organisational systems) is the council to take a role in monitoring the conditional release of GE organisms?

5)      Are you aware that the moratorium on commercial release of GE organisms into the environment is due to expire in October and that most of the research which the government has commissioned into the effects of GE organisms will not be completed by that time? Do you think this is applying the Precautionary Principle to this issue?

6)      In the event of an escape of a GE organism from a conditional release area, is council prepared to be called in to help MAF respond to the escape? What arrangements exist for MAF to fund this type of council involvement?

7)      Who should bear the costs of monitoring, auditing, response to escapes and any potential clean-up operations involved with conditional or full release of GE organisms into the environment in our region? Manufacturer / importer / user of GE organisms / taxpayer / ratepayer?

8)      What about impacts of the use of GE organisms in freshwater / marine aquatic environment in this region? What is council's capacity to deal with these escapes? What impact might escapes have on aquatic species and ecosystem.

9)      Have you considered the potential for heritable genetic material from a conditional or full release site to enter a waterway and thus move to other areas besides the one in which it might be intentionally released?

10)  Has council investigated the role of the Resource Management Act (RMA) in the management of GE organisms? If so, what conclusions has it drawn?

11)  Would you consider pollen/other heritable material of GE organisms to be contaminants? Once a site has ceased to be used for production of GE organisms, would you consider that site as a contaminated site?

12)  Would you consider waste from a site used to produce GE organisms as hazardous waste/special waste, if so, what are implications for management?

13)  What impact might the use of land within this area for the production of GE organisms have on land values and the rating base for the council? What impact might production of GE organisms in our area have on the regions’ economy?

14)  Would you allocate $10,000 in this year's Annual Plan to investigate implications of the GE issue for the council? If not, please explain why not?

15)  If the release requires a buffer zone, how big is it (radius of circle)? Who owns the land inside the buffer zone (the GM farmer or the neighbour)? What can be grown inside the buffer zone if closely related natural species can outcross with the GM crop? Who compensates if the existing landuse inside the buffer zone has to change?

16)  Whether the growing of GMOs is a notifiable activity - i.e. not "as of right" on designated agricultural land.

17)  Do you think that the location of sites used for producing genetically engineered organisms in the environment should be made publicly available? Should it be made known to neighbouring landowners?
 Thank you for your time and effort in considering these questions.

18)  With regard to the confidentiality of site location being used to produce GE organisms, does section 42 of the RMA provides a model of how to enable a decision making authority to have access to sensitive information without disclosing trade secrets to the public?

19)  Have you given any thought to whether the fact that land has been used for producing genetically engineered organisms or has been contaminated with heritable material from genetically engineered organisms should be included in the Land Information Memorandum your council is tasked with issuing?

20)  Liability - this could come back to councils.

21)  Biosecurity - alien species.

22)  RCGM recommendation that "regional exclusion zones" can be declared and implemented (presumably by the regional council?
Thank you for your time and effort in considering these questions