Our Annual Report signals a change in focus for us as New Zealand’s national independent environmental regulator.
We have committed to a shift from work associated with processing applications, to giving greater emphasis to compliance monitoring and enforcement, and to increasing our level of engagement with communities and stakeholders.
Over the next four years we will be continuing with this journey.
We monitored six launches from the Mahia Peninsula, in New Zealand's Hawke's Bay region.
Hazardous substances decisions
We made sure that hazardous substances being made, imported, or used in New Zealand are managed safely and follow the rules.
We visited or contacted 166 sites, including 34 airports, as part of our first investigation into the unlawful use of harmful firefighting foams.
New organism decisions
We assessed the risks of 32 applications to introduce new organisms into New Zealand.
Hazardous Substances Compliance Senior Advisor - Emily Chau
I trained as a pharmacist, supporting people’s health. Often I felt like the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff when medical intervention was needed to help them back to good health. Helping to protect the environment and the world we live in is not so different to preventative healthcare – creating the kind of healthy environment that supports a nation’s well-being.
Land and Oceans Compliance Senior Advisor - Dan Baker
Our team is responsible for environmental monitoring and compliance across a range of activities occurring in New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf. This is a massive area of ocean wrapping around New Zealand, spanning 5.7 million square kilometres – about 20 times our land mass – and is one of the biggest zones of its kind in the world.
Safer Homes Programme
We inspected eight oil and gas installations, a dumping operation and a permitted activity.
We visited oil and gas sites in Taranaki, a coal mine in Waikato, and conducted 13 audits to check compliance with the Emissions Trading Scheme.
We visited nine low-cost discount stores identifying the importers of certain cosmetic products, and ensuring the requirements of the Cosmetic Group Standard were met.
We made decisions on 10 applications for offshore activity in our Exclusive Economic Zone.
Investigating firefighting foams
In April 2019, we released the findings of our national investigation into firefighting foams containing the banned chemical, perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), a persistent organic pollutant (POP). POPs are organic (carbon-based) compounds that do not readily break down through chemical or biological processes, meaning they remain intact and in the environment for very long periods of time. They are toxic to both humans and wildlife.
A new vaccine for a deadly disease
An important decision this year was the approval of an application to import a genetically modified vaccine. It will be used to immunise travellers, including military personnel and emergency aid workers, who are sent at short notice to areas where the mosquito-transmitted and potentially deadly Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) is endemic.
Science Research Assistant - Hannah Davidson
An important task of our team is to help make science more accessible to the public. Science tends to be viewed as some mysterious backroom practice, understood only by the practitioners. Instead, it should be a force for good that engenders people’s trust in decisions, trust in the scientists’ work that underpins those decisions, and trust in the regulatory framework in which they are made.
Hazardous Substances Applications Advisor - Karla Ellicock
My background is in ecology – studying how organisms interact with one another and with their environment. It’s all about connections. One of my earliest memories of science was at primary school, where we had to create a poster and map a food web that included whales. This experience taught me that each connection in the food web is reliant on another.
This year we’ve started mapping out a programme to increase the frequency and quality of engagement with communities, Māori, and specialised groups who have an interest in our work, such as science educators and environmental organisations.
We want to give a voice to the most diverse range of community groups as we can, including those of different ethnicities, animal and agricultural interest groups, and workers across high-risk industries.
Reducing our carbon footprint
We’ve committed to reducing our carbon footprint by being confirmed as a Toitū carbonreduce (formerly CEMARS - Certified Emissions Measurement and Reduction Scheme) certified organisation.
This is the start of a journey for us, to identify, measure and reduce our own carbon emissions, and is in keeping with our responsibility for administering New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme. And at the start of 2020, we have already reduced our total emissions by 10 percent.