Improving chemical assessment for a safer environment


Changes are being made to the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 (HSNO) that will enable us to more quickly assess and reassess chemicals for use in New Zealand.

There are over 9,000 substances with individual approvals, and many thousands of substances with approvals under group standards.

“If approvals are delayed, beneficial chemicals, including safer alternatives to existing ones, take longer to be in use,” says the Ministry for the Environment’s Director of Waste and Resource Efficiency – Regulatory and Policy, Glenn Wigley.

“Delaying reassessments means safety and environmental controls might not be up to date and fit for purpose.”

The Ministry for the Environment (MfE) is responsible for developing the policy behind the changes.

The EPA is the regulator of chemicals used in New Zealand, approving new chemicals and setting controls for them. It also reassesses chemicals already in use to ensure the existing controls are fit for purpose.

“The changes will speed up these processes by enabling us to better use information, assessments and decisions of trusted overseas regulators,” says the EPA’s General Manager of Regulatory Systems and Operations, Siobhan Quayle.

”This will lead to better protection of people and the environment.”

The changes are part of a broader government work programme to improve the hazardous substances system, including the EPA’s chemical modernisation programme and increased funding to support the EPA’s reassessment programme.

The changes only relate to hazardous substances – there are no changes to the new organisms provisions of the HSNO Act.

The next steps will involve MfE drafting amendments to the HSNO Act, and making changes to the relevant regulations, to be considered by Parliament.

Read the Cabinet paper on proposed amendments to the HSNO Act 1996 – Ministry for the Environment website (PDF, 742KB)

EPA New Zealand, 12 November 2020