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Minister Disappointed At EMA Stance

14 May 2001

The Minister for the Environment, Marian Hobbs, is disappointed members of the Employers and Manufacturers Association are making a last minute attack on compliance costs of the new health and safety environment law due to operate from July 2.

"They have ignored the fact that there are provisions to do low-cost, rapid assessments for some hazardous substances," Marian Hobbs said.

"They have also not taken into account that approvals can be given for groups of hazardous substances rather than individual new products, which could reduce the costs per product in such a group to a tiny fraction of what the EMA would have businesses believe."

Marian Hobbs said she is working with her colleague, the Minister of Commerce, Paul Swain, on compliance cost issues.

The Minister said the hazardous substances regulations under the HSNO Act had undergone a six-year programme of consultation.

"This included exhaustive review by experts selected by, among others, the industries named in the media release by the Employers and Manufacturers Association," Marian Hobbs added. "The Government has also sponsored an amendment to the Act which was recently passed by Parliament to implement changes suggested by industry. I am very disappointed to find that some of these same industries are now attacking the law as it is about to come into force.

"Responsible businesses will already have in place good safety procedures and tracking systems if they are working with hazardous substances. If industries need ‘vast new control systems’ as reported, one might well ask what they have been doing until now. "

Marian Hobbs said the law is not just about the environment.

"It is also about people’s health and safety in the workplace and at home," she added. "The present system for managing hazardous substances is inadequate for protecting health and safety and our environment, and it is not consistent with good international practice.

"Decisions have been made in the past about introducing new potentially dangerous chemicals with little or no examination by government. While it is true that this has meant little cost to business, it has meant substantial risks to health and the environment. "

The Minister urged business to attend one of the seminars being sponsored by the EMA explaining the Act.

Ends

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