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Erma To Reassess Methyl Bromide

Erma To Reassess Methyl Bromide

The Environmental Risk Management Authority has decided that valid grounds exist for the reassessment of the fumigant methyl bromide - the first step in a process that will determine if it can continue to be used in New Zealand.

Reassessment of the chemical, commonly used for the fumigation of logs and other goods for export, has been foreshadowed for some time, ERMA New Zealand Chief Executive Rob Forlong said.

"There is a significant degree of public concern about the effects of methyl bromide as an ozone depletor and possible health effects on workers, and a reassessment of it will clarify the risks, costs and benefits of its use," Mr Forlong said.

One of the grounds for reassessing a substance is that there has been a change in the pattern of its use. The Authority decided there had been a significant change in both the use of methyl bromide and in the quantities being imported. This was due in large measure to the growth in log exports to Australia, India and the Far East.

In 1992 methyl bromide was listed as an ozone depleting substance under the Montreal Protocol, and developed countries such as New Zealand were given until 1 January 2005 to phase it out except for critical uses and for quarantine and pre-shipment (QPS) fumigation. Methyl bromide can only be imported into New Zealand for QPS purposes.

Methyl bromide is a broad-spectrum fumigant that kills a wide range of pests, including soil-borne fungi, nematodes, weeds, insects, mites and rodents. Its use is currently a biosecurity requirement for some of New Zealand's export markets, particularly for logs.

The next step in the reassessment process is the preparation of an application for reassessment to the Authority by ERMA New Zealand staff. Preparation of the application will involve considerable research and the collection of information from both New Zealand and overseas.

This work is expected to take up to 18 months, after which the public and interested organisations will be invited to make submissions on the application.

There are also likely to be public hearings held as part of the process where the Authority will hear from submitters before a decision is made on the future use of methyl bromide.


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