New Zealand implements hydrofluorocarbon rules to help cool the planet

The Environmental Protection Authority is leading New Zealand’s implementation of the Kigali Amendment, an international agreement to reduce the levels of hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) gases in the Earth’s atmosphere.

A new permitting scheme to protect New Zealand and New Zealanders from climate change will be introduced in February next year, to be applied to all bulk imports and exports of HFC gases, which are used in refrigeration units and air-conditioning units.

Dr Fiona Thomson-Carter, General Manager of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Hazardous Substances group, said science has shown HFC gases are potent greenhouse gases, which means they capture heat from the sun and release it into the Earth’s atmosphere.

HFC gases have a high global warming potential (GWP), which can be as much as 50 to 14,800 times more than carbon dioxide.

The Kigali Amendment builds on the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which has been instrumental in repairing ozone layer damage caused by ozone-depleting gases during the 1980s.

“If Kigali is successful it is estimated it could reverse current warming up to an estimated 0.5 degrees by the end of the century,” said Dr Thomson-Carter.

“The EPA’s role under the Ozone Layer Protection Regulations will see the Authority manage the permit system for 18 different HFC gases.”

Read more about the Kigali Amendment here.

Source: Environmental Protection Authority

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Fly sprays and animal treatments come under EPA microscope

The Environmental Protection Authority is to investigate products containing synthetic pyrethroids as part of its revamped reassessments programme, announced in mid-October.

Synthetic pyrethroids are insecticides found in some fly sprays, insect repellents, automatic insect dispensers, bed bug treatments, and animal flea collars and treatments.

The EPA has announced a call for information as it seeks more detail, from New Zealand households and commercial users, on how and where products containing these substances are being used.

General Manager of the EPA’s Hazardous Substances Group, Dr Fiona Thomson-Carter says synthetic pyrethroids (which are not the same as the naturally occurring pyrethrins derived from chrysanthemums) are hazardous substances. They should be used with care and product label instructions strictly followed.

New information from international regulators in the United States, Canada and the European Union has identified certain risks to people and animals from the use of products containing synthetic pyrethroids. These warrant further investigation.

“This information concerns risks to children from accidental exposure to flea collars and treated carpets, as well as people reporting a burning or prickling sensation, known as paraesthesia, after coming into contact with synthetic pyrethroids,” says Dr Thomson-Carter.

“It is important to clarify that synthetic pyrethroids, and products that contain them, are not banned. The call for information signals the Authority’s first step in exploring whether a reassessment is necessary.”

The public, industry and manufacturers of the chemicals, can support the EPA’s call for information by completing a response form on the EPA website which will help us build a more detailed picture about their use in New Zealand.

The EPA has also issued a Caution Notice which provides concerned members of the public with up-to-date guidance about the safe use of products that contain synthetic pyrethroids.

The call for information will close on 1 February.  The EPA will use this information to determine  the next steps.

Read here about information the call for information on synthetic pyrethroids.

More information here about the EPA reassessments process.

Source:  Environmental Protection Authority

EPA considers fungus with potential to promote growth and yield in crops

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is considering an application from a Spanish company to release a new microorganism, the fungus Glomus iranicum var. tenuihypharum. The fungus, and products derived from it, are claimed to promote growth and yield in agricultural and horticultural crops.

The applicant, Symborg Business Development, has developed products overseas using this fungus in various forms. They are used for agricultural and horticultural applications where soils are depleted through intensive use.

In powdered form, the fungus can be dissolved in water and applied through irrigation systems, or as a seed coating. In granular form, it can be spread in furrows.

The EPA’s General Manager of Hazardous Substances and New Organisms, Dr Fiona Thomson-Carter, says the fungus is not a genetically-modified organism and cannot be cultured in a laboratory in the absence of a plant host.

The applicant notes that closely related species have already been found in New Zealand.

“The fungus itself propagates by contact with the roots of a host plant, so its spread is confined to the application zone,” Dr Thomson-Carter says.

The applicant says the fungus is highly saline-tolerant. High salinity is often a feature of soils subject to intense agricultural and horticultural use, and heavy application of fertilisers. Products derived from the fungus have been shown to alleviate the negative effects of salt stress on plants such as lettuce. They also promote drought resistance, Symborg says.

The fungus grows in association with the roots of plants in a symbiotic relationship. Its network of hyphae, or long, branching filaments, improve plant growth through increasing nutrient absorption. They also promote soil stability, by binding tiny particles into coarser fragments. These factors can assist in reducing erosion, and improving plant productivity, Symborg adds.

Symborg Business Development has consulted with the HSNO Komiti of several iwi, and with the EPA’s Te Herenga Network. It discussed concerns that were raised over the possibility of the fungus displacing native species, or forming a symbiotic relationships with invasive species.

Links to the application and information for submitters are provided HERE. 

Source:  Environmental Protection Authority

Biocontrol for eucalyptus tortoise beetle

The Environmental Protection Authority is considering an application to release a parasitoid wasp to control the eucalyptus tortoise beetle.

Scion, the Crown Research Institute focused on research, science and technological development for the forestry and timber industries, has lodged the application.

“The Australian eucalyptus tortoise beetle causes significant damage to susceptible species of eucalypts. Its larvae feed voraciously on eucalyptus leaves for three weeks before pupating. Adult female beetles also feed heavily as they develop,” says the EPA’s General Manager of Hazardous Substances and New Organisms, Dr Fiona Thomson-Carter.

“According to the applicant, the beetle costs the forest industry $1.0-$2.6 million a year in chemical control costs. It estimates that effective biocontrol could prevent $7.2 million in annual losses caused by impaired tree growth and yield attributable to the eucalyptus tortoise beetle.”

Farm foresters and owners of moderately-sized eucalyptus plantations cannot afford aerial spraying, so biocontrol is their only realistic option to combat damage done by the beetle, Scion notes.

“Eucalyptus trees are grown in New Zealand as a source of products such as woodchips for paper and cardboard manufacture, lumber, and durable poles which do not require preservative treatment,” Dr Thomson-Carter says.

“Scion notes around 90 percent of tortoise beetle larvae survive into adulthood. But if a larva is attacked just once by the parasitoid wasp, survival drops to just 10 percent.”

The wasp is harmless to humans.

New Zealand has no native beetles of the same type as the eucalyptus tortoise beetle, and no native eucalyptus species, Scion says.

Its laboratory tests suggest the risks to non-target related native and beneficial beetles appears to be very low. It has discussed the application with various Māori groups.

Public submissions on this application open today and close on November 14.

Source: Environmental Protection Authority

Two moths may be imported into New Zealand to combat invasive horehound

The Horehound Biocontrol Group, a collective of farmers whose crops are infested with horehound, have applied to the Environmental Protection Authority to introduce the horehound plume moth and horehound clearwing moth to attack the weed. Its application was supported by the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) Sustainable Farming Fund.

The two moths attack horehound in different ways. The larvae of the plume moth feed on horehound leaves, while those of the clearwing moth feed on the roots.

The applicant group noted a recent survey estimating horehound costs to New Zealand dryland farmers at almost $7 million a year.

The weed is a serious threat to the viability of some farms, it is said, as it establishes strongly in hill and high-country, especially when the valuable crop, lucerne,  is dormant in the winter. One farmer noted that horehound quickly grows out of control, resulting in lucerne paddocks failing well before their expected 10-year life cycle.

“The EPA received 40 submissions on this application, 39 of which were in favour,” noted its General Manager of Hazardous Substances and New Organisms, Dr Fiona Thomson-Carter.

“The Department of Conservation and MPI both supported the application. MPI noted the negative impact of chemicals on the environment where spraying was used, as against the long-term benefits of bio-control.”

A firm that produces medicinal products using horehound weed told the authority harvesting the weed may become difficult if a biocontrol agent was released.  But the Decision-making Committee found that, in unmanaged environments, the moths would be the only means used to control horehound, so herbalists should be able to continue their harvesting, which is done by hand.

The committee further noted that farmers and herbalists could come to agreements regarding access to and management of horehound-infested areas to allow harvesting.

“The EPA decision-making committee heard evidence from farmers that lucerne is increasingly being used in the high country to mitigate the effects of drought. They explained that lucerne flourishes in dry conditions, and provides high-quality feed for longer periods than traditional pasture grasses. Farmers see it as an ally in their fight against climate change,” Dr Thomson-Carter said.

“The EPA accepted that there are no native species related to horehound that would be at risk if these two moths were introduced. Both were released in Australia 20 years ago, and there was no evidence of adverse effects on non-target species there.”

In coming to the decision to approve the application without controls, the authority noted that it did not identify any risks to native or taonga species, ecosystems or traditional Māori values, practices, health or well-being.

The Decision-making Committee also concluded that introducing the two moths would curb the vigour and abundance of horehound in New Zealand, thus reducing its progressive invasion of new habitats, and sustaining biodiversity.

The committee further noted the potential beneficial effect of reducing the use of herbicides that can kill native or other beneficial plants when used incorrectly, Dr Thomson-Carter said.

All documents relating to the application can be read HERE. 

Source. Environmental Protection Authority 

Second grounds for reassessment on methyl bromide declined

The Environmental Protection Authority has declined an application to determine whether there are grounds for a reassessment of methyl bromide’s flammable gas classification.

This latest decision does not invalidate the grounds for reassessment established earlier this year as a consequence of an application, made by the Stakeholders in Methyl Bromide Reduction Inc, based on the volume of methyl bromide being used and imported into New Zealand.

Although those grounds for reassessment have been established, the EPA says it has not yet received any application to reassess methyl bromide.

By October 2020 users of methyl bromide in New Zealand will still need to meet EPA requirements to use recapture technology and safely recover or dispose of the gas used in their fumigation activity.

The General Manager of EPA’s Hazardous Substances Group, Dr Fiona Thomson-Carter, says a Decision-making Committee was appointed and decided that none of four possible factors required to approve the grounds for reassessment were present.  The application was declined.

“Grounds for reassessment need to be established before any reassessment application can be accepted under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act,” says Dr Thomson-Carter.

“In their application, Pest Management Association of New Zealand presented information that methyl bromide is “only flammable in extreme concentrations, extreme heat and a high voltage spark”, and as such should not be considered to be a flammable gas.

“We agree with the supporting information but does not consider that it meets the ‘significant new information’ factor for grounds to change the flammability classification of methyl bromide.”

Anyone can make an application for grounds.  Once grounds are approved, anyone can apply for the subsequent reassessment.

More information on reassessments is available on the EPA website.

Additional information

  • Methyl bromide was previously reassessed in 2010 following an application by the Chief Executive of the Environmental Risk Management Authority, the predecessor to the Environmental Protection Authority.
  • The key factors which need to be taken into account for grounds for reassessment to be found:
    • Significant new information relating to the effects of the substance becomes available.
    • A change in controls under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
    • Another substance with similar or improved beneficial effects and reduced adverse effects becomes available.
    • Information showing a significant change of use of the substance becomes available.
    • Information showing a significant change in the quantity of the substance manufactured or imported becomes available.

Source: Environmental Protection Authority

EPA releases science behind hazardous substances

The Environmental Protection Authority has publicly released, for feedback, the approach used to assess hazardous substances which pose risks to people and New Zealand’s environment.

Dr Fiona Thomson-Carter, General Manager of the EPA’s Hazardous Substances Group, says there’s always a lot of interest in the authority’s decisions on what hazardous substances we approve and why.

“The approach and the scientific models outlined in the guide help us decide how to manage risks, by either imposing controls on how the substance is used, like its maximum strength, who it is available to, and how it is labelled, or declining the application,” says Dr Thomson-Carter.

“These are important decisions and we’re encouraging interested parties to read our guide and give us feedback on how useful and user-friendly the material is.”

This is the first time the authority has released its decision-making approach, which assesses the evidence and data for hundreds of imported or manufactured hazardous substances in New Zealand.

New Zealanders come into contact with hazardous substance daily, including a range of substances from fly sprays through to weed killers, Dr Thomson-Carter said.

“We always look at the benefits and risks and costs, and consider the effects a substance poses to human health, the environment, and the economy,” she said.

“The EPA will only grant and approval for a hazardous substance to be imported or manufactured in New Zealand if it is considered that the risks can be adequately managed, and that the benefits outweigh any residual risk.”

As the authority continues to refocus on becoming a more proactive and transparent regulator, it wants to enable interested parties and the public to understand the science behind its decision-making, Dr Thomson-Carter said.

Read the risk assessment guide HERE.

Source: Environmental Protection Authority