Regional council boss defends role in GE regulations vote

The Northland Regional Council chairperson, Bill Shepherd is defending his role in the council decision not to regulate against genetically engineered (GE) organisms.

Mr Shepherd has been fiercely criticised for using his casting vote to defeat proposals for rules governing GMO’s in the regional plan .

But he said the process was above board.

He said the council was not equipped to monitor or enforce rules about GMOs.

And if it had brought in rules to limit their use in Northland it would have had to put rates up to pay for monitoring and enforcement.

Bill Shepherd said Northland was not exposed to GMOs and it was sufficiently protected at a national level by the HASNO Act and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Last week, consultant Jack Craw, a former biosecurity manager at Auckland Council, said Mr Shepherd should not have used his casting vote to defeat the motion.

Mr Craw said the time-honoured convention is that the casting vote should support the status quo, and that should have meant a yes vote for rules on GMOs.

The council’s regional policy statement supports a precautionary approach, and Mr Craw said the weight of public opinion was also in favour of rules, with 82 submissions in support and only Federated Farmers opposed.