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Methyl bromide rules reset

2 September 2021

A total ban on methyl bromide fumigation aboard ships in New Zealand is part of a comprehensive suite of new rules imposed by a Decision-making Committee of the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).

Methyl bromide is a toxic and ozone-depleting substance, which India and China require to be used on logs they receive from New Zealand. It is a biosecurity tool, used internationally to kill pests.

“The EPA’s role in regulating hazardous substances involves carefully balancing environmental, health, economic, and cultural factors,” says Dr Chris Hill, General Manager of the EPA’s Hazardous Substances group.

“The decision released today sets a roadmap to full recapture of methyl bromide. It provides a clear and structured pathway for industry to reduce the amount of methyl bromide emitted. The decision recognises the benefits associated with methyl bromide use, while also protecting human health and the environment.

“Ship hold fumigation will be banned from 1 January 2023. This rule change is significant as the amount of methyl bromide used is much higher than elsewhere, and it is not currently possible to recapture methyl bromide during ship hold fumigation. Therefore, in this setting, the risks to human health and the environment outweigh the benefits.”

Stepped increases will apply to the recapture of methyl bromide from containers and covered log stacks, starting from 1 January 2022. This phased approach will be more achievable than a single target, allowing the EPA to ensure that requirements are being met by industry at each stage.

The decision also introduces much stricter accountability and reporting measures. Revoking the approval for methyl bromide (in other words banning it outright) was not in the scope of this reassessment, but the decision released today sets far more stringent controls on its use.

“While methyl bromide use is being phased out globally, in New Zealand its use increased by 66 percent between 2010 and 2019. We are currently out of step with most other countries which are turning away from this ozone-depleting substance.

“However, the combined controls imposed by this decision will result in methyl bromide emissions being reduced significantly over the next five years. The aim is also to disincentivise the use of this fumigant.

The Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act requires the EPA to publicly notify its decision no later than 30 working days after the conclusion of the hearing. For this reassessment, the deadline is Wednesday 18 August.

Read more detail on the decision.

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