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The main chemical management regulation in New Zealand is the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO Act) which was administered by the Ministry of the Environment and went effective for new organisms from July 29th 1998 and for hazardous substances from July 2nd 2001. The purpose of the HSNO Act is to protect the environment, and the health and safety of people and communities, by preventing or managing the adverse effects of hazardous substances and new organisms. The Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) was established under this Act to assess and decide on applications to introduce hazardous substances or new organisms into New Zealand. In July 2011, ERMA became the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). There are 22 regulations under this Act covering a broad scope of controls including fireworks and other explosive controls, and the management, disposal, classification, packaging and transport of hazardous substances and new organisms.

The HSNO Act defines hazardous substances as substances that have 1 or more of the following intrinsic properties:

  • Explosiveness
  • Flammability
  • Capacity to oxidize
  • Corrosiveness
  • Toxicity (including chronic toxicity) 
  • Eco-toxicity, with or without bioaccumulation
  • Substances that on contact with air or water generates a substance with any of the above listed hazardous properties

It should be noted that the term “hazardous substance” in HSNO Act include both single-component chemical substances and formulated products. The following substances are exempted from the HSNO Act:

  • Hazardous substances that are only being used in an exempt laboratory
  • Medicine
  • Infectious substances, UN Class 6
  • Ozone-depleting substances
  • Food
  • Manufactured articles

According to the HSNO Act, the manufacturers and importers of hazardous substances or new organisms that are not already legally present in New Zealand must apply to ERMA/EPA for approval before introducing the substances or organisms into the country. Enterprises should check the New Zealand Inventory of Chemicals (NAIoC) to determine whether their chemicals are new in New Zealand or not.

It should be noted that new non-hazardous chemicals don’t need to be notified to the authorities and the NZIoC doesn’t list any non-hazardous chemical substances.

There are two types of approval for hazardous substances manufactured or imported in New Zealand:

  • Individual substance approval

If a single-component chemical on its own or contained in a formulated product is hazardous and it is not listed on NZIoC, a new chemical notification needs to be submitted to EPA for the hazardous component. This process is called individual substance approval.

  • Group standard approval

Group standard approval is for a group of hazardous substances with a similar nature, type or use. A group standard sets out conditions that enable a group of hazardous substances to be managed similarly. Such conditions include specific requirements on labelling, SDS, and packaging etc. for group standard approval, manufacturers and importers should carry out their own assessment and assign their product to certain group standards based on the hazards and intended uses of the products. Many group standards require the hazardous components of products covered under these approvals to be listed on the NZIoC.

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