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NZ will ratify UN environment conventions

4 July 2003 Media Statement

NZ will ratify UN environment conventions

Parliament has made the law changes needed to clear the way for New Zealand to ratify two United Nations environment conventions.

In a joint statement with the Associate Commerce Minister John Tamihere, the Environment Minister, Marian Hobbs stressed the importance of New Zealand’s ratification of the two conventions.

"By ratifying, New Zealand will be playing its part in helping to make the world a safer place by protecting human health as well as the environment," Marian Hobbs said.

The conventions are:
- The Stockholm Convention – which requires governments to ban outright the import, manufacture, and use of chemicals that are persistent, toxic and bioaccumulate
- The Rotterdam Convention – which is an information exchange programme for international trade in hazardous chemicals.

Before New Zealand could ratify them, the government needed to amend the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act 1996 and the Import Control Act 1988.

The chemicals banned under the Stockholm Convention include aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, mirex, hexachlorobenzene, toxaphene, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Dioxin emissions are also to be minimised under the Convention. These chemicals, known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) accumulate in living tissues, posing a threat to human and animal health.

John Tamihere said the Rotterdam Convention requires New Zealand to follow an internationally agreed protocol, called prior informed consent, in which information is exchanged between governments about the hazardous chemicals before they are traded. NZ has participated voluntarily in the prior informed consent procedure since 1989.

"The change to the Import Control Act is significant because it brings under one piece of law the export controls needed to meet international obligations relating to chemicals, products, organisms, wastes or other substances that pose a risk to human health or to the environment," Mr Tamihere said.

Marian Hobbs said that the two conventions would bring clear benefits to New Zealand.

"The Environmental Risk Management Authority, which makes decisions on hazardous substances in New Zealand, can issue directions on the environmentally sound disposal of old stocks of historical pesticides, and will oversee the complete phase-out of PCBs," she said. "By minimising dioxin emissions, as required under the Stockholm Convention, we will also safeguard the high quality of New Zealand’s food products, especially meat and dairy foods."

The conventions are supported world-wide by the chemical industry and non-governmental organisations concerned with the safe use of chemicals.


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