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Native species protection at heart of project - EPA

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A collaborative project has concluded that the assessment processes for the approval of new hazardous substances are sufficient to protect most of New Zealand’s native species.

The Native and Surrogate Species Project was established in 2016 by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in response to concerns raised by Ngāi Tahu as to whether test data derived from overseas surrogate species are representative enough to protect New Zealand native species.

The project was undertaken in partnership with Māori and Agcarm (New Zealand Association for Animal Health and Crop Protection).

The ManahautÅ« (General Manager Māori) of the EPA’s Kaupapa Kura Taiao unit Doug Jones says, "Māori, regulators, manufacturers, agrichemical users, and sector groups worked collaboratively on the Native and Surrogate Species Project to explore the extent to which surrogate species test data from overseas can be used. This collaboration was integral to the project.

"The EPA makes decisions about whether to allow hazardous chemicals into New Zealand, as well as the rules (known as controls) governing their use, storage and disposal here. These controls, when followed, enable risks to be managed.

"When we assess applications, we weigh up the risks and benefits using risk assessment models and methodology. We use scientific evidence, and cultural perspectives in our assessment of new hazardous substances. These inform the decisions we make to fulfil our role to protect the environment and enhance a safe and sustainable way of life, and future, for all New Zealanders.

"There is no testing of the effects of hazardous substances on native species, and none is planned. Instead, we use data from surrogate overseas species in our decision making.

"What the project has found is that the surrogate species provide reasonable coverage for culturally significant species in New Zealand, with the exception of reptiles, amphibians and mushrooms."

The EPA will continue with the current risk assessment approach, including the use of extra assessment factors for threatened species, but will investigate other potential risk assessment approaches for reptiles and amphibians.

"This project has demonstrated the value of working together across all interested parties - something which takes time but produces the best outcomes," adds Doug Jones.

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