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New Rules, More Costs

29 June 2004

New Rules, More Costs

Farmers will from Thursday face more compliance costs and paperwork for no apparent benefit to anyone, said Hugh Ritchie of Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc).

A massive shake-up of the laws controlling agrichemicals takes effect on July 1.

"Despite frequent reassurances from regulators that nothing much would change, it is now looking likely that every farmer in New Zealand will have to get an 'approved handler' qualification to continue using the most common of agrichemicals on their farm," Mr Ritchie said.

"This information -- available only in the last four weeks -- suggests that the cost to industry could be in excess of $30m every five years, yet there is no evidence of any problems with the misuse of agrichemicals.

"Farmers have been increasingly frustrated by the lack of information on what the transfer of these chemicals to new legislation will actually mean for their business,” he said.

Despite 18 months of consultation and over 15 submissions from Federated Farmers, vital decisions have been left to the last minute.

"Federated Farmers opposed the more ridiculous controls from the onset but has worked for months to obtain user-friendly information on any new developments, for dissemination to its 18,000 members.

"The Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) has failed to clearly communicate crucial changes to farmers and other users of pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides.

"ERMA does not have the resources for handling the vast task of examining 1800 chemicals, and then communicating the impact of the changes to farmers," Mr Ritchie said.

Background: Hazardous substances were controlled under many separate pieces of legislation. But in 2001 they came under one umbrella, the Hazardous Substances And New Organisms (HSNO) Act. Since July 2, 2001, products have been transferred from the "old" legislation to the stricter HSNO law.

For example, fuels such as diesel and petrol were transferred to HSNO on April 1, 2004. On July 1, 2004, it is the turn of pesticides, including herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides. Animal remedies will be transferred in 2006.

The process of "transferring" each product into the new regime is lengthy and bureaucratic. Each product has to be classified according to its chemical properties and have controls assigned accordingly. For example, about 1800 bug and weed control agents are being transferred.

The transfer is being controlled by the Environmental Risk Management Authority. The effect is that normal farming practices will be altered by new handling requirements, even though there may be no evidence of a problem.

Some pesticides, depending on their toxicity and how they are used, may need to be under the control of an "approved handler". A farmer may have to become an approved handler simply to use flea powder if they use enough on their farm.

One way to become an approved handler is attend a course. Based on the average cost of current courses in the market, if one person per rural enterprise attended a course, Federated Farmers estimates that total cost in fees, travel, and foregone work would be in excess of $30 million in the first instance. There will also be significant ongoing costs for recertification every 5 years, but these are unknown at this stage.

Another $10m could potentially be added to this figure because the Act requires an approved handler to “know and be able to describe…the content of each code of practice approved by the Authority in relation to any of those substances”. At present the only (possible) approved code of practice would be the NZS8409 Management of Agrichemicals. This costs $153 for each hard copy.


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