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Hazardous substances law to be more practical

27 October 2004

Hazardous substances law to be more practical

Changes to the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 (HSNO) have been given the green light, Environment Minister, Marian Hobbs said today. An amendment bill will be introduced to Parliament before the end of the year.

"These changes will make the law more practical for users of hazardous substances and result in lower compliance costs," Marian Hobbs said. "There will be fewer applications for businesses and more user-friendly controls with which to work."

The Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA), responsible for implementing HSNO, will be able to establish approvals for groups of substances to be known as 'group standards'. "The group standards mechanism is a timely change and will assist ERMA to transfer the 70,000 notified toxic substances to the HSNO regime before July 2006. ERMA will also be able to establish group standards to manage specific types of hazardous waste that meet the HSNO hazard thresholds."

A key benefit of group standards is to have one set of controls for substances that pose similar risks, to avoid the need for many individual applications. ERMA will be able to group substances together pragmatically; for example group standards may be developed by product type such as paints, cosmetics, and fly-sprays. "Many small and medium businesses have asked for more user-friendly controls. The controls for group standards will be simpler. ERMA will consult with the public when developing these standards and controls,"Marian Hobbs said.

Some of the other changes given the green light include:

regional councils with be able to enforce hazardous substances controls;

greater flexibility in setting tolerable exposure limits and environmental exposure limits;

greater flexibility around rapid assessment and reassessment processes;

Occupational Safety and Health Service inspectors will be able to check for HSNO compliance when using the powers of entry under the Health and Safety in Environment Act;

establishment of a central register of test certificate information;

ERMA will be able to revoke approved handler test certificates where for example false information has been provided;

Customs will be able to direct an importer of an unapproved hazardous substance to re-export that substance even if it has been unloaded in New Zealand;

the current fast track emergency approval provisions will extend to environmental emergencies such as new substances required to clean up an oil spill;

laboratories carrying out research and development will be able to sell substances to other laboratories for the same use;

medical practitioners will be required to report hazardous substances injuries;

containment approvals will be able to be used where a substance is imported for re-labelling, re-packaging or reformulating for export.

"These changes complete the longer term proposals set out in the government's Hazardous Substances Strategy announced in June last year," Marian Hobbs said.

The amendments will be introduced in a bill before the end of the year.


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