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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EPA aims to establish modern chemical management system for NZ

The Environmental Protection Authority is pressing ahead with its programme of work to create a modern chemical management system for New Zealand.

The approach features in the EPA’s latest Annual Report alongside key activities that span consumer safety around hazardous substances, its risk assessment approach; an extensive chemical reassessments programme and a prototype chemical atlas to map New Zealand’s chemical loading by geographic region.

The authority’s Annual Report covers a wide range of activities including:

  • The introduction and issuing of Caution Notices that signal to New Zealanders when extra vigilance is needed around the use of certain common chemicals.
  • The Safer Homes Programme which aims to help families stay safe around household chemical products.
  • Workshops for importers, suppliers and operators of low-cost stores to promote a better understanding of their obligations under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act.
  • The public release of the decision to grant, subject to conditions, marine consents and marine discharge consents to Trans-Tasman Resources Ltd. This set a record of 13,733 submissions.
  • Two Boards of Inquiry for the East West Link and Northern Corridor Proposals of National Significance, both in Auckland.
  • The investigation into fire-fighting foams manufactured using PFOS or PFOA.
  • The approval of a genetically-modified virus Telomelysin, as part of a clinical trial for patients with advanced and inoperable melanoma.

Source: Environmental Protection Authority

Gall mite is approved to curb old man’s beard

The leaf-galling mite Aceria vitalbae may now be used to combat the pervasive weed old man’s beard.

Horizons Regional Council applied to the EPA to introduce the gall mite on behalf of the National Biocontrol Collective, comprised of 14 regional councils and the Department of Conservation.

The Department of Conservation told the Environmental Protection Authority’s decision-making committee that old man’s beard is a serious environmental pest for which there are limited control options, especially where it is widespread, says EPA General Manager of Hazardous Substances and New Organisms, Dr Fiona Thomson-Carter.

Horizons Regional Council submitted that some native plant species, especially in the central North Island, are heavily impacted by old man’s beard. It noted that in some places this weed has been dispersed by the wind, and has established on cliffs, cloaking vegetation and ultimately killing other plant species.

Horizons spends more than $500,000 annually trying to eradicate old man’s beard and five regional councils around New Zealand estimate they spend $760,000 in total. Helicopter spraying of the most suitable broadleaf herbicide costs $1,500 per hectare.

Aceria vitalbae is a gall-forming mite, says Dr Thomson-Carter.

The galls it forms on host plants provide shelter for the mites, enabling them to multiply. The plant redirects resources into the galls, which reduces its capacity to flower, produce leaves, grow longer internode stems, and photosynthesise.

While the leaf-galling mite may attack plant species closely related to old man’s beard, such as the exotic Clematis stans, Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research told the EPA it is confident there would be no significant damage to non-target plants, such as native Clematis species.

Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research is the science provider for the application, and noted the formation of galls would assist in reducing the lateral spread of old man’s beard, and as a flow-on effect, potentially thin-out the canopy coverage and reduce shading of the undergrowth.

Overall, the EPA concluded that native New Zealand plants are not at risk of attack by Aceria vitalbae. Spill-over attacks on exotic species within the same family as old man’s beard are very unlikely, as ornamental Clematis and old man’s beard do not grow in the same areas.

The decision-making committee noted the environmental benefit of reducing herbicide usage if biocontrol proved effective. This would lessen collateral damage on non-target plants and reduce the chemical burden on the environment.

Source:  Environmental Protection Authority 

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

EPA ramps up chemical reassessments programme

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is making changes to the way some chemicals are managed in New Zealand.

It is ramping up its reassessments programme and taking action on some chemicals to ensure risks to people and the environment continue to be managed effectively.

As New Zealand’s independent regulator, the EPA manages the regulation, approval and reassessment of chemicals classed as hazardous substances under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act.

Working with international counterparts it has identified a priority chemicals list of around 40 chemicals that require review and scrutiny.

This will involve reviewing the rules that apply to those chemicals to ensure risks to people and the environment continue to be managed effectively, providing greater confidence for New Zealanders that the EPA is properly managing their health and environmental concerns on their behalf and on behalf of future generations.

“This is an extensive and important programme of work that goes to the heart of keeping New Zealand and New Zealanders safe,” says EPA Chief Executive Dr Allan Freeth.

“It is designed to lay the foundations for a modern chemical management system; one supported by robust and up-to-date evidence and data, and which aligns with the standards, knowledge and practices recognised by our regulatory partners globally.

“Industry groups, importers, manufacturers and our trading partners will also enjoy greater consumer and international confidence in the way New Zealand manages its chemical regime.

“Our worldwide knowledge about chemicals and their effects increases every day through advances in science and technology.

“At times, new information may indicate a chemical poses more risks than existed, or that we knew of, at the time it was originally approved for use in New Zealand.

“But when an approval is granted for a chemical to be used in New Zealand that approval does not expire. The only legal way it can be amended or revoked is when the EPA, or an interested party, takes formal action.

“The EPA did this in April 2017 when it reassessed five approvals for the pesticide chlorothalonil. At that time it revoked four of those approvals for domestic use and restricted a fifth approval to commercial use only.”

As part of the programme, grounds for reassessment have already been established for the herbicide paraquat, and a call for information has been completed. Further grounds for other chemicals on the priority list are being prepared for consideration by an EPA decision-making committee in the near future.

Reassessments can be complex, lengthy and some may cost more than $1 million. The EPA is funding this initial reassessment work by reprioritising its current expenditure, and is in discussion with the government on longer-term funding.

The priority chemicals list can be viewed HERE. 

Background notes with the press statement from the EPA include:

• A large and diverse number of chemicals classed as hazardous substances are in use in New Zealand. There are around 9,000 individual approvals and 210 Group Standards, which cover a total of some 150,000 substances.

• A Group Standard can be used to approve ranges of similar substances routinely used in groups of commercial products (for example, toothpaste, cosmetics, some industrial raw materials etc). A significant number of approvals have been carried forward from regimes in place before the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act came into full effect.

• Reassessment is the formal legal process for the EPA to evaluate any new information, and take action to prevent, manage, mitigate or reduce risks that may have come to light since an approval was first granted. The process is a two-step one. More information on how it works is available HERE.  For more information on the reassessment programme, click HERE,.

• The EPA assesses and approves hazardous substance applications (about 100 new applications/year) with appropriate input from WorkSafe New Zealand.

• The Priority Chemicals list replaces the EPA’s former Chief Executive-Initiated Reassessments list.

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