The National Government is attempting to remove the right of communities such as Northland, Hawkes Bay and the Bay of Plenty and their councils from controlling the release of genetically engineered trees in their regions.
“The proposed National Environmental Standard for Plantation Forestry (NES-PF) aims to replace existing plan rules for many plantation forestry activities,” Green Party forestry spokesperson Steffan Browning said.
“Increasing numbers of councils, in response to their ratepayers and businesses, are including precautionary provisions or controls for GE in their Resource Management Act (RMA) plans, but with this sleight of hand, the Government is taking away communities’ right of protection.
“Councils such as those in Bay of Plenty, Hawkes Bay, and Northland have recognised the need for local controls over GE, and the Environment Court has already supported the inclusion of a local precautionary approach in RMA plans.
“Being GE free is part of our New Zealand clean, green brand, and gives us a unique competitive edge in international markets.
“A National Environment Standard (NES) should set effective bottom lines, but this NES could still allow GE and also sedimentation from some land disturbance, that will continue to wreck fisheries habitats and spawning grounds.
“GE trees have been promoted heavily by the Forest Research Institute - trading as Scion - often in partnership with international tree giant ArborGen who have only ever done minimal environmental effects research, and which has been ridiculed internationally.
“The technology is not proven as safe or beneficial. Councils must be able to exercise precaution,” Mr Browning said.