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EPA announces new controls for insecticides

Media release

27 June 2013

A group of highly toxic insecticides has been extensively reassessed by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and some will no longer be allowed to be used for plant pest control in New Zealand, the EPA announced today.

The EPA’s General Manager Applications and Assessment, Sarah Gardner, says that while the controlled use of some insecticides would continue to benefit New Zealand’s primary production industries, others were too damaging to people and the environment.

“The EPA’s role is to ensure that New Zealand’s environment, society and economy are protected from the risks posed by such substances.”

“This reassessment of a group of organophosphate and carbamate-based insecticides (OPCs) followed questions about their negative effects on human health and the environment,” says Mrs Gardner. “People who have been using these insecticides – from farmers to the home gardener – are likely to be impacted by the changes being announced.”

Health risks

Mrs Gardner says that OPCs provide significant benefits both regionally and nationally in New Zealand, including playing a critical role in maintaining New Zealand’s biosecurity system.

“However, they are known to be toxic to people who use them, other workers and bystanders and can lead to acute or chronic health effects,” she says. “They are also harmful to the environment and are particularly toxic to the aquatic environment, invertebrates such as bees, and to birds.”

“Our reassessment therefore included an examination of these negative effects, as well as an evaluation of how these substances affect Māori relationships with their ancestral lands, water and other taonga,” she says.

Robust assessment

“We undertook two years of robust scientific and economic analysis and comprehensive public consultation, including an examination of the practicality, economic viability and sustainability of options to manage these substances.”

“Looking at these substances as a group means that users, manufacturers and importers can be assured that there is now a consistent approach to the ongoing management of these substances in New Zealand.”

OPCs play a key role in pest management programmes for the horticultural, pastoral, arable and ornamental sectors in New Zealand. From a national economic perspective the pastoral sector is the most significant in which insecticides are used and is valued at $24 billion annually.*

Several OPCs are used by home gardeners to control pests on vegetable gardens, flowers and lawns and a number are crucial in the maintenance of New Zealand’s biosecurity, for example in the treatment of imported flowers or in the event of an incursion.

Risks outweigh benefits

A decision-making committee of the EPA has determined that the risks posed by some of the substances are so great that they will no longer be permitted for use for plant protection purposes in New Zealand.

Of these, the approvals for eleven have been declined with immediate effect, in part because they are not currently used in New Zealand.

“The committee acknowledged the benefits provided by the remaining substances to the agricultural and biosecurity sectors,” she says. “Whilst they have been approved, with some being phased out over time, new controls have been put in place to minimise the risk of harm they pose to people and the environment.”

New controls

“One control imposed is that anyone using OPCs must wear appropriate protective equipment when applying a substance and receive training in its proper application before they can purchase and use it,” Mrs Gardner says.

Other controls require product labels to include warnings and directions for use for those substances that may adversely affect bees, and for restrictions to be placed on the method and rate of application of some substances to manage the risk of exposure to people and the environment.

Mrs Gardner acknowledges that while some users, particularly home gardeners, may have concerns about following the new rules, they have been put in place to safeguard people and the environment.

“The decision committee was particularly mindful of the potential risks of these types of insecticides being used in the home garden, especially the potential risks they pose to children,” she says.


Mrs Gardner says that one of the substances, diazinon, had drawn significant feedback from the public and particularly the pasture sector.

“Concerns were raised about the availability of alternatives for diazinon, which is used to treat a variety of pests, specifically grass grub which can cause millions of dollars’ worth of damage every year,” says Mrs Gardner. “The decision-making committee acknowledged these concerns in granting its approval, but again added controls to minimise harm.”

The changes to the approval status of OPCs announced today will be take effect from the date specified in the decision.

*This estimate was provided by the Dairy Industry (Dairy NZ) – http://www.pasturerenewal.org.nz/UserFiles/File/BERL%20Pasture%20Renewal%202011%20Analysis.pdf

Further information

To help importers, manufacturers, suppliers and users understand the new regulations and make any necessary changes to ensure they comply with them, the EPA is preparing detailed guidance material. This information will be available on the EPA’s website at www.epa.govt.nz later this year.

The full decision and controls documents can be found on the EPA’s website or by following the links below:

The decision

The controls

All documents relating to the reassessment can be accessed by following this link: Reassessment documents

Notes to Editors

The controls

New additional controls will come into effect in two years’ time. For substances granted approval, one or more of the following controls will be implemented.

Please note that descriptions below are a summary of each control. To ensure compliance with the controls, users must refer to the decision documents for a full description of each control.

Application parameters

To manage the exposure of a substance to people or the environment, those applying the substance must follow strict guidelines on the application rates and frequencies.

Spray drift management

To protect bystanders or sensitive areas from unintended exposure, anyone applying a substance must take all practicable steps to ensure that off-target deposition (spray drift) does not occur. For example, this may be done through the use of a particular application technique or the use of shelter belts.

Cover granules after application

In order to prevent birds from ingesting pesticide granules, granules must be covered with soil immediately after application.

Restriction on method of application

The way in which some substances are applied will be restricted to specific methods and may include particular equipment, locations or environments. For example, aerial application may be prohibited.


Labels on substances must clearly indicate if the substance is an organophosphate or carbamate, so that users are alerted to the risks of handling the substance.

Label warnings of effects on bees

As OPCs are known to have a toxic effect on bees, the label must provide details of the actions that must be taken to avoid bees being exposed. The details may include statements about not applying the substances to plants at a time where bees are likely to visit, or where they are known to forage.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

To prevent users from being exposed to a substance, a substance will require the stated minimum level of PPE or Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) to be worn, unless the person applying the substance is in fully-enclosed cab of a vehicle that provides adequate respiratory and contact protection.


Written notice must be given at least two working days in advance of a wide-dispersive application of a substance to anyone likely to be affected by it, including occupiers and owners of land or property that is adjacent to the application area.

Restricted Entry Interval (REI)

After a substance has been applied, a time limit is specified during which people cannot re-enter the treated area unless they are wearing the same level of PPE that is required during application. For enclosed environments like greenhouses, the time period starts once ventilation of the building has started.

Approved handler

To ensure that a substance is being stored, handled and used safely, the substance must be under the control of a person with the required level of knowledge and expertise.


Where substances are being used indoors signs must be erected at the entrances to the application area to let other people know that a toxic substance is being used and when it is safe to enter that area without wearing PPE.


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