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CIC Annual Responsible Care Conference - Hobbs Spc

18 July 2002

Hon Marian Hobbs

Speech Notes

The New Zealand Chemical Industry Council (CIC) Annual Responsible Care Conference

Keynote Address: Keeping New Zealand Clean and Green - Opportunities for Industry to Lead by Example


Good afternoon¡K.

Keeping New Zealand Clean and Green - Opportunities for industry to lead by example. It is positive and encouraging knowing that, as an industry, you are looking for opportunities to lead by example. What follows are my thoughts on industry leadership in the context of hazardous substance management and of the New Zealand waste strategy.

Leadership is about influencing, energising and mobilising others to achieve results. It is not unlike chemistry, where small quantities of material can have a profound effect on things. The reaction might be fast and fizzy, or it might be slow but long lasting.

We need good leaders to engage, and to encourage others to engage, on environmental issues. I have always thought that we will achieve the best results when business, regulators and other sectors are working constructively together. And by better results, I mean improved environmental and public health objectives and reduced costs.

You have asked me to talk about opportunities for leadership, but I can think of a number of areas where your council is already taking a strong industry leadership role. Three areas come to mind:

- First, when the HSNO framework was being set up, you took a lead in informing the community about it. You also made a positive contribution to the construction of the system. Your involvement in HSNO is a model of useful engagement for when I am talking to others.

- Secondly, your Responsible Care programme generally and the Premises Accreditation Scheme in particular, are excellent examples of quality standards applied in a practical way for people working at the coal face of your industry.

- Thirdly, the CHEM Call programme was a pro-active approach to making information about hazardous substances available in an emergency.

I would also like to applaud your council for its leadership in the area of HSNO compliance generally and the Codes of Practice work in particular.

Codes of practice are designed to provide practical day-to-day tools to comply with the requirements for hazardous substance management. While the HSNO regulations define the performance standards to be met, a code of practice is an example of how those standards can be met. Codes can be more easily changed than legislation or regulation, as technology advances. Your organisation has been instrumental in bringing industry groups together to establish good practice, and then having that practice approved as a code of practice under the Act.

I appreciate the need for developing brand new codes of practice, but I hope you do not overlook the disciplines or industry groups that are already working to practical and usable guides. There must be considerable savings in time, and strengthening of relationships, when existing work is used as the basis for formal Codes of Practice.

The government is assisting with the development of Codes of Practice too. The Ministry for the Environment’s Sustainable Management Fund is currently supporting the development and updating of the codes of practice work undertaken by your council. I intend to ensure that this activity continues to be a priority for the fund.

I spoke yesterday with the agrichemical industry. That industry faces some quite distinctive issues, some of which will require specialised solutions. Agrichemicals have, however, been under the policy spotlight recently, and many of the lessons we have learned are applicable more broadly.

In particular, the need for better education and training of all people who use or handle agrichemicals was a key finding of the committee asked to work on agrichemical trespass. This training extends from formal programmes for commercial users of agrichemicals, through to retailers also having sufficient training so they could provide that additional information to customers - everything from the appropriate equipment to use to information on the effects of weather conditions.

As part of the need for training and education the Agrichemical Trespass Advisory Committee recognised the importance of national standards, and particularly the Growsafe standard. I believe that this type of codification of best practice represents one of the most powerful tools for the safe day-to-day management of hazardous substances in New Zealand.

Your council is already a very active leader in the area of training and standards for chemicals. I hope that you will continue to develop your role in this important area.

You will be interested to know that the Ministerial Advisory Committee looking at Agrichemical Trespass has finished its work and I am looking forward to the release of its report.

On a related issue, the paper Towards a Pesticides Risk Reduction Policy for New Zealand - was released in April this year. The Ministry for the Environment has just begun the job of analysing the more than 100 submissions it received on the discussion document. I am hoping this process will help us focus on the key risks from pesticides. The paper outlined current control measures, identified the risks involved, and suggested some measures that could be introduced to minimise those risks. It will provide pointers for ways to improve other aspects of hazardous substances management.

The new organisms part of HSNO has been operating for 4 years. The hazardous substances part is, as you know, relatively new and came into force last July. Despite the need for some adjustments to the mix, I believe that we have got it pretty well right with the HSNO legislation. It is a comprehensive one-stop shop for managing the adverse effects of hazardous substances, and that is a vast improvement on the past.

Also, we seem to have got it right internationally. I am coming to appreciate, particularly after my recent meeting with Australian ministers, the importance of aligning New Zealand with international best practice. The HSNO legislation has allowed that alignment, and we continue to be involved in the development of international best practice through the UN Globally Harmonised System. I know that there was some concern about New Zealand’s adoption of the global harmonised system, but the timelines being advanced under HSNO are almost exactly those being pursued internationally. Now that the work is underway, I believe we are as a country going to benefit because of our adherence to this common system.

As the hazardous substances regime beds in, we will also need to improve some aspects of it. We will do that and we will listen carefully to views on how to improve it. Obviously, views that are founded on the clear identification of problems and suggested solutions to them will have the most impact.

The ERMA tells me that applications for new hazardous substances are arriving on its doorstep steadily. Approvals have already been granted for release, transhipment, reassessment and containment of hazardous substances.

Another area where your council is pro-active is in making joint applications for approval of new hazardous substances. There are real efficiencies to be had by using the HSNO process on groups of substances, but it often needs at least one company, or the likes of your council, to persuade others of the advantages of joint applications. This means reducing costs to individual companies while still managing the risks of the substance effectively.

Officials and industry have already put a lot of time into the transfer of hazardous substances. I appreciate that the transfer of hazardous substances is not an easy task, but a smooth and early transfer will enable some of the benefits of operating under the HSNO Act to be realised earlier. That is in all our interests.

The ERMA will need to call on importers and manufacturers to supply basic information about the substances to be transferred. This is particularly true of notified toxic substances, as the information supplied as part of the old Toxic Substances Act notification will not meet the new requirements.

I am aware that we also need to make sure that the various arms of government work effectively with each other. We have already seen some fine-tuning. The Cabinet has, for example, delegated decisions on transfers to the interested Ministers in order to remove one layer of decision-making and to simplify the process. We are prepared to consider further modifications, to ensure that the various agencies work together effectively, and I am open to practical suggestions on how to achieve this.

We will encounter the kind of short term problems often associated with the "bedding-in" of a major change in legislative and institutional arrangements. We need to work constructively and cooperatively through them. For its part, the government is funding over half of the costs of all HSNO approvals. I would not expect to revisit this issue until at least late 2003, when there will have been enough time to assess the likely effects of recovering more of the costs.

The New Zealand Waste Strategy

HSNO and agrichemicals have been with us for some time. But the New Zealand Waste Strategy is new, and has been released since your last conference.

The strategy has moved thinking on waste a long way forward. Formerly, the Ministry for Environment focussed on reducing harm to the environment, mostly from the disposal of solid waste or hazardous waste.

The new strategy, released earlier this year, has two additional significant goals:

- Lower the costs and risks to society of waste, and

- Increase economic benefit by using material resources more efficiently.

Achieving these goals brings in the full gamut of waste activities, from prevention at the beginning of the production cycle through diversion and recovery of waste to safe disposal.

There had been a strong demand for a broader focus on waste for some time, and I am delighted with the positive reception given to the strategy by councils, industry, community groups and individuals.

The waste strategy depends heavily on co-operation and partnership with local government. The strategy sets some fairly tough targets for councils in relation to waste to landfill for example.

The strategy also sets several other inter linking objectives for hazardous wastes, special wastes, and trade wastes.

Extended producer responsibility - or sending responsibility for waste back up the pipe - will be a key strategy for achieving many of the goals relevant to your industry. It is not yet clear how far Extended Producer Responsibility will be based on voluntary programmes, levies, regulation, and other economic instruments. We will use regulation where required, but I am pleased to say that I am encouraged by the leadership that industry groups are already showing in a number of ways.

Where do I see good leadership in waste management, and where would I like to see more?

As Minister responsible for the Ozone Layer Protection Act, I strongly support the levy-based programme introduced by the refrigeration industry some years ago, to fund the destruction of ozone depleting refrigerants. And, while the refrigeration and air conditioning services industry made no secret of its desire for regulated, compulsory training, the industry has nevertheless worked hard, in partnership with the Ministry for the Environment, to promote voluntary training among its members. It happens that the techniques used to contain ozone-depleting refrigerants also apply to Hydro Fluorocarbons (HFCs), one of the gases listed under the Kyoto protocol. The so-called No-Loss course run by the refrigeration industry, and launched earlier this year, therefore has lots riding on it.

Plastic wastes on farms are another area. Farmers and growers are using very large amounts of plastics, like silage wrap and agrichemicals containers, in their day-to-day operations. But in most circumstances the environmentally friendly disposal options are very limited. It concerns me and I feel that the initial suppliers of products must show some leadership and help close the loop on this one. I am aware that the agricultural and horticultural industries, the Ministry for the Environment, regional and territorial government, recyclers, and the plastics and chemical industries are working together to find practical solutions to this problem. I am looking forward to seeing some positive results on farm plastics, and then to seeing if whatever model is developed can be applied elsewhere.

In addition to the specific waste streams, there is scope for more work to be done in relation to hazardous wastes generally. The Ministry for the Environment is working to develop tools to ensure best practice management of hazardous waste. These tools include hazardous waste record-keeping and landfill waste acceptance criteria. The tools have already been trialled in parts of New Zealand. We now need industry cooperation and involvement to roll out the tools on a nation-wide basis.

In addition, and this takes us back to extended producer responsibility, the New Zealand Waste Strategy calls for a 20% increase in the recovery and recycling of hazardous waste by 2012. This target will only be achieved if we find creative solutions to "close the loop" on hazardous substance management. I am confident that we have sufficient creativity. I think that there is scope for tremendous progress in this direction if you are prepared to take a leadership role, and to harness your industry’s considerable energies to making this work.

There are issues to be faced, and challenges to overcome. But I know that we can make progress in the fields of hazardous substances management and waste management though cooperative endeavour. Moreover, I believe that your industry is and should take a positive role in these areas. Go out and effervesce!!

Thank you and I wish you all the best for your conference.

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