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Tip of ERMA's cost iceberg emerging

Tip of ERMA's cost iceberg emerging

Many thousands of small businesses are about to be levied $50 a year for dangerous goods licences without any prior notification or consultation, the Employers & Manufacturers Association (Northern) says.

As well, all existing holders of dangerous goods licences will see their fees go up 150 per cent from next April, the association says.

"The extra costs decreed by ERMA are just the tip of the iceberg," said Garth Wyllie, executive officer with EMA (N).

"ERMA has authorised local councils to more than double their fees for dangerous goods licences without running any checks to see if the cost increases are warranted.

"It has introduced a new $50 fee for previously exempt businesses handling or storing less than 1000 litres of substances classified as dangerous.

"Many thousands of small businesses will be required to become licenced for this purpose at an annual cost of $50.

"ERMA has apparently accepted claims made by councils about the costs for issuing the licences without question. Industry has not been extended the courtesy of being consulted over the huge increases.

"For example we fail to understand why the fee increase is a uniform 150 per cent according to the volume of the goods container involved.

"The costs which come into effect this month range from the new charge of $50 for 1000 litre capacity up to licence of $1500 for 10 million litre capacity, (previously $600).

"ERMA's record over its costs is very poor. The latest increases for dangerous goods licences is in line with its poor projections for assessing low risk substances.

"Two years ago we were told a simple application to ERMA to register a low risk substance under the HSNO Act would be $400 to $600. They have all cost at least 50 per cent more.

"ERMA charged about $8700 to date in a recent case for registering a simple skin care product approved and widely distributed in the United States and elsewhere.

"A large part of ERMA's 'research' on the product was entirely over the internet though all the information sought could have been provided by the company trying to register the product in New Zealand.

"Two years ago ERMA said the average cost for normal applications for low risk substances under the HSNO Act should be around $3000 to $4000. The average is running close to $7000 with $10,000 not unusual.

"Once a product is approved anyone can import it, provided they use the controls published by ERMA; companies are hanging back waiting for someone else to register a substance or product then piggy backing on the other party's work and costs. Investment is being held up.

"This issue would disappear if the Notification of Transferable Substance (NOTS) register was up and working but its not.

"It's hard to escape the conclusion that ERMA is heaping extra costs on industry to pay for trying to make the hazardous substances law work.

"But the HSNO Act is a world first and unique to New Zealand, and no one seems to know how to make it work.

"Meantime investment in New Zealand industry and in research and development is being heavily penalized."

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