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Genetically modified organisms and the RMA

This page provides information on the management of genetically modified organisms by councils under the Resource Management Act.

Councils role under the RMA

The Resource Management Act (RMA) requires local government to promote sustainable management of natural and physical resources. ‘Natural and physical resources’ include all plants and animals. Genetically modified plants or animals (GMOs) have not been specifically excluded.  

In the Environment Court (Federated Farmers of NZ v Northland Regional Council). The court found there was a role for local authorities to regulate GMOs under the RMA by providing for their integrated management. 

However the ability of councils to manage the environmental effects of GMOs may vary in quality between councils. Specialist skills, knowledge and resources are required for effective management. The Environmental Protection Authority is equipped with the necessary skills and resources as part of its official mandate.

If a council provides for the integrated management of GMOs, either through regional policy statements or through rules in regional or district plans, the RMA imposes a number of requirements under section 32 of the Act. 

Section 32 requires a council to:

  • evaluate why the provisions are the most appropriate way to achieve the purpose of the RMA, having regard to their efficiency and effectiveness
  • show that the provisions are consistent with the purpose and principles of the RMA provide sufficient evidence to support such provisions as an appropriate planning tool.

Find out more

Definition of new organism in the HSNO Act [New Zealand Legislation website].

New organisms [Environmental Protection Authority website].