EPA Achieves Major Milestones In Challenging Year
New Zealand’s environmental regulator has forged ahead with progress on all of its major initiatives in the past year, despite the cloud of uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A transformation of chemical management, and significant changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme, feature in the latest annual report from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).
"We put the environment and the health of people front and centre in everything we do. The work we do every day is about protecting the environment, to ensure a safe and sustainable way of life for all New Zealanders now and into the future. The decisions we make now could affect what will happen over the next 3, 30, and 300 years," says the EPA’s Chief Executive, Dr Allan Freeth.
The Hazardous Substances Modernisation programme, which began in 2019, has been one of our largest and most significant pieces of work. In April 2021 we reached a major milestone by bringing New Zealand into the Globally Harmonised System (GHS 7), an internationally agreed way of classifying chemicals.
We also initiated a call for information on the herbicide glyphosate, to understand its usage patterns in New Zealand ahead of European review findings due next year.
Over the past three years, we have made a shift to place more emphasis on compliance, monitoring, and enforcement. A new organisational structure to support this took effect in October 2020.
Within the Emissions Trading Scheme, we’ve overseen the introduction of new penalties and supported the introduction of auctioning of New Zealand Units.
We’ve contributed to the country’s COVID-19 response by delivering a fast-turnaround assessment of the Pfizer vaccine, and providing advice and administrative support for the fast-track resource consenting process - which aims to boost employment and economic recovery.
After many years of development, in July 2020 we launched our Mātauranga Framework - acknowledging Māori knowledge, experience, values, and philosophy. The creation of this framework has been a huge advance for the EPA as it allows us to fully consider mātauranga evidence in our decision-making.
As part of our increased focus on connecting with New Zealanders, in June of this year the EPA exhibited at National Fieldays for the first time, to hear directly from rural New Zealanders.
"On 1 July we marked 10 years since the EPA was established, acknowledging the history we have made and will continue to make," says Dr Freeth.
"We have "done our job", but to us that is not enough, and together with New Zealanders we need to achieve much more.
"Environmental challenges are confronting us every day across the globe. Regulators such as the EPA play a crucial role in protecting the environment and reducing the harm being caused."