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ERMA wants public input on methyl bromide review

5 November 2009
Media Release

ERMA wants public input on review of methyl bromide

ERMA New Zealand is calling for public submissions on its reassessment of the fumigant methyl bromide.

The application for reassessment is being released today for public submission and includes a preliminary recommendation for tighter controls on the use of the substance.

A final decision will be made in mid-late 2010 once the application, public submissions and any other information relevant to the reassessment has been considered by the Environmental Risk Management Authority.

Methyl bromide is an ozone-depleting gas used primarily for the quarantine and pre-shipment treatment of timber, logs and other produce, both for export and import, to kill a wide range of pests.

In July 2008, the Authority decided there were grounds to reassess the substance because of increased use and community concern.

Following that decision, ERMA New Zealand staff have spent more than a year researching and evaluating information from many sources in New Zealand and overseas.

The application for reassessment sets out the results of this review and includes the preliminary recommendation that methyl bromide be re-approved in the medium term for quarantine and pre-shipment purposes only, with tighter controls on its use.

This is only a preliminary recommendation by staff of ERMA New Zealand. A final decision will be made by members of the Authority itself, after consideration of public submissions and evidence provided at public hearings.

The proposed new controls include:

* a new safety threshold for short-term exposure, in addition to the existing one for long-term exposure;

* downwind buffer zones to be applied when the gas is vented; and

* appropriate air quality monitoring for all types of fumigations.

Methyl bromide is an effective biosecurity tool. When used on imported goods it reduces the likelihood of unwanted pests entering New Zealand and damaging the environment, crops and ecosystems. It is also required by New Zealand’s trading partners for treatment of timber exports as a biosecurity measure. However, it is a hazardous substance and must be used with care. As yet there is no single alternative to methyl bromide but research into alternatives and large-scale recapture of the gas is ongoing.

The investigation assessed the risks, costs and benefits of using methyl bromide and evaluates the positive and negative effects on human health, the environment, the market economy, Māori interests and the wider community.

The review also considered community concerns about the possible health effects of the fumigant on users and bystanders unintentionally exposed to it at ports.

ERMA New Zealand Hazardous Substances General Manager Andrea Eng says submissions form an important part of the reassessment process.

“The reassessment application contains preliminary recommendations only, based on the information we have gathered from within New Zealand and overseas. The process has been thorough and comprehensive but we welcome any additional information which will assist the Authority in making its decision about future use of the substance.”

“We look forward to hearing from all interested parties, on any aspect of the reassessment,” Ms Eng says.

Submissions close on 18 December, 2009.

Public hearings will be held for submitters who wish to put their case to the Authority before it considers and makes its decision on the future use of methyl bromide in New Zealand.

A decision is expected in mid-late 2010.

The Authority’s decision will be based on whether or not the benefits of using methyl bromide outweigh the risks and costs of its use – after taking account of all safety precautions that might be imposed and the likely effects of the substance being unavailable.

To view the Application for Reassessment, go to: http://www.ermanz.govt.nz/find/WebResultsDetails.aspx?ID=8340

To view the Executive Summary to the application, go to: http://www.ermanz.govt.nz/resources/publications/pdfs/Methyl%20Bromide%20Executive%20Summary.pdf

For information on making a submission, go to: http://www.ermanz.govt.nz/consultations/howsubmission.html

For more information on the reassessment including background information, go to http://www.ermanz.govt.nz/hs/methyl%20bromide/index.html

ENDS

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