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Environment Select Committee Identifies Risks

Committee Identifies Risks



25 May 2000


The Local Government and Environment Committee of Parliament, reporting today on its financial review of the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA), has identified risks in current arrangements to control new organisms and hazardous substances.

No central government agency checks whether the genetic manipulation that is carried out in a laboratory or that has been carried out to produce an organism grown in a field trial actually complies with the consent issued by ERMA.

"We intend to review this situation" the Chairperson of the Committee, Jeanette Fitzsimons said, "in the light of the outcome of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Genetic Modification."

The committee's report points out that delay in the commencement of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act for hazardous substances is opening up gaps as the previous arrangements wind down.

· The Toxic Substances Board, which has responsibility for scheduling poisons other than pesticides, has been inactive during the past two years. Consequently, a number of poisons currently in New Zealand are not being managed as they should be.

· The number of Inspectors of Dangerous Goods has been allowed to fall, in anticipation of a new system that is not yet in place.

"We are calling on the Government to report on the issues raised by the various risks emerging as a result of delay in the full implementation of the hazardous substances side of the HSNO Act, including how those risks are to be managed," Jeanette Fitzsimons said. "We are also asking the Government to ensure that the work necessary to enable the HSNO Act to commence for hazardous substances is concluded promptly."

Wider public understanding needed

"We are concerned that ERMA can provide no assurance that new organisms are not being imported illegally. ERMA told us that it has received few applications to import new plants, but we notice that new overseas plants continue to appear in home gardens, and they can spread from there."

The report notes that enforcement of import regulations relating to new organisms is the responsibility of the Customs Department, working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Illegal imports of seeds are difficult to detect.

"Garden centres and other importers of plants may be unaware of their responsibilities under the HSNO Act or may be ignoring them, and we hope ERMA will include them in its public information programme."

"The public needs to have confidence that there are standards that will protect New Zealand. There are substantial economic, social and environmental risks if hazardous substances or new organisms are introduced into the country, spread, or are used in ways that are judged by well informed authorities to be unsafe," Jeanette Fitzsimons concluded.

Jeanette Fitzsimons MP Chairperson Local Government and Environment Committee Contact: 04 471 9999 ext. 6665


Members of the Local Government and Environment Committee:

Jeanette Fitzsimons (Chairperson) Martin Gallagher (Deputy Chairperson) David Benson-Pope Georgina Beyer Ann Hartley Joe Hawke Owen Jennings Hon Murray McCully Eric Roy Richard Worth

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