LOCAL councils in South Australia have expressed disappointment with the state government decision to not approve any applications to remain GM-free, saying they spent considerable resources but have been left feeling the decision was already made.
While several council representatives say since the ruling - however disappointing - has been announced, they will have to "move on", the City of Onkaparinga, which includes the McLaren Vale wine region, is seeking means to reverse the decision.
"The Minister [David Basham] has now put at risk more than $20 million annually in crop value," City of Onkaparinga mayor Erin Thompson said.
"On the back of COVID-19 and further export challenges currently being faced by our wine industry, this is a huge kick in the guts."
Ms Thompson said a substantial 37 per cent of McLaren Vale's vineyards were certified organic and biodynamic and would be impacted by this decision.
"We listened to our growers and they told us about the measurable impact this decision would have, but this has fallen on deaf ears and the implications are deeply concerning," she said.
Barossa Council mayor Bim Lange agreed this was an extra unnecessary expense for the state's councils, while they were already hurting from COVID-19.
"It put enormous additional work on local governments within a time frame when they were dealing with COVID-19," he said.
"We followed the procedure set down by the minister and put forward what we thought was a valuable discussion paper about the benefits we see (of remaining GM-free).
"We had significant numbers associated with remaining GM-free through community consultation, but it was always going to be the Minister's decision."
Mr Lange said the decision to use council boundaries was flawed from the start, with the Barossa wine region also including the towns of Greenock and Seppeltsfield, located in Light Regional Council, which also had a larger proportion of broadacre operations.
Alexandrina Council was another electorate with duelling interests, with mayor Keith Parkes saying the decision to apply for GM-free status had been very tight.
"What is disappointing is that we, like other councils, went to a lot of trouble to prepare submissions and we haven't been listened to," he said.
"It should never have been a council job, it should have been state government, which is what it's ended up being. But it's done now and we'll move on and see how it goes and hope we don't have any problems."
Adelaide Hills Council deputy mayor Nathan Daniell said the government should be showing the value for their region to lose its GM-free status.
"This is a significant opportunity lost as currently none of the three GM crops licenced in Australia are grown in the AHC area, yet our producers will now lose the branding and marketing opportunities GM-free status has allowed us to develop," he said. "This amounts to a net economic detriment for our region.
"Given the above, AHC believes an exemption should be provided until such time as a net economic benefit could be more fully realised."
Berri Barmera Council mayor Peter Hunt said despite their "due diligence", he thinks "the agenda was already set" and the final decision was "most certainly" a foregone conclusion.
"We believe we had justifiable circumstances and 79pc of submissions wanted to remain GM-free," he said.
Mr Hunt said the process went against the normal process for change.
"Normally, when there is a change to be made, you have to justify why, but in this case, we had to justify why we should remain at the status quo," he said.
The other councils with unsuccessful applications were the District Council of Yankalilla, Mount Barker District Council, Town of Gawler, City of Victor Harbor, City of Playford and City of Tea Tree Gully.
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