The work we do for the good of Aotearoa New Zealand continues to grow.
Annual reports are a means to ‘take stock’ and reflect on what we have achieved over the year. As this report shows, we have much to be pleased about, but still have considerable challenges ahead.
We are laying the foundation for work to do good for New Zealand, now and long into the future. We have rethought our business, and are organising to focus more on compliance, monitoring, and enforcement, and on engagement. Operational performance remains a given, and we are striving to improve our delivery to our applicants and stakeholders.
Our success increasingly rests on engaging with customers, stakeholders, citizens and critics – the team of five million – about the need to recognise, protect and enhance New Zealand’s unique environment and way of life.
We inspected six facilities for non-compliance with the rules for fire-fighting foams.
We considered and made decisions on 34 applications to import or release new organisms.
We issued 17 advisory and four warning letters, as part of our compliance, monitoring and enforcement work in the Exclusive Economic Zone.
We conducted 13 investigations under the Ozone Layer Protection Act 1996.
Environmental management through a Māori lens
This year has seen the culmination of another of our key initiatives, the completion of our mātauranga framework. The framework is the result of a three-year programme aimed at helping our decision makers understand, test and probe mātauranga when it is presented in evidence.
Mātauranga is the pursuit of knowledge and understanding of te taiao – the natural environment. It includes knowledge or lore about a landscape or an element within the landscape, such as how a river has behaved over time. It follows a systematic methodology based on evidence, and incorporates culture, values, and Māori world view.
By weaving this knowledge alongside conventional science, our decision makers will be able to better understand mātauranga as a form of evidence.
Erica Gregory, Manahautū Kaupapa Kura Taiao – Acting General Manager of the EPA’s Māori policy and operations group
Part of my role is to explain and champion the EPA’s mātauranga framework. Mātauranga is a body of knowledge, experience, values and philosophy of Māori.
We commissioned the EPA’s mātauranga framework three years ago, to foster and embed understanding of mātauranga across the EPA. We want it to be more of a force in our work. We want our decision-makers to confidently test and probe mātauranga when it is presented in evidence.
The question for us is how, as a regulator and government organisation, do we meaningfully consider mātauranga knowledge, recognising it pertains to life on the marae, life in the sea, life in the forest – life across te taiao.
Creating a modern chemical regime
This year, we have made considerable progress with our multi-year foundation programme to modernise New Zealand’s chemical regime. It is on track for full implementation in 2021. The work involves updating our existing hazardous substances classification system, and replacing New Zealand’s hazardous substances database (accessed via our website). The database is the sole repository for hazardous substances approved under the HSNO Act.
The incoming classification system, known as the Globally Harmonised System Version 7 (GHS 7), is an internationally agreed way of classifying chemicals based on their human and environmental hazards. Using GHS 7 will increase the effectiveness of chemical management in New Zealand: it will ensure more internationally aligned information for users of hazardous substances, and will help simplify processes for importers and manufacturers.
To support our adoption of GHS 7, we have continued with preparations to upgrade our current hazardous substances database to the International Uniform Chemical Information Database (IUCLID). Our aim is to deliver a modern, fit-for-purpose system that will become the single source of truth for all information on our website regarding hazardous substances, their approval status, classification, and controls. Such information is widely used by our staff and customers, including those overseas.
Gayle Holmes, General Manager of Compliance, Monitoring and Enforcement
"The work of our strengthened Compliance, Monitoring, and Enforcement function drives delivery of our third strategic goal: protecting people and the environment."
Our work involves compliance, monitoring, and enforcement activities in relation to hazardous substances, ozone-depleting substances, the EEZ and the Register.
Louise McMillan, Acting Team Leader, Hazardous Substances
One of my interests is making science relevant to people and their lives. As acting Team Leader in the Hazardous Substances and Reassessments team I have scope to do this, particularly through the work of the EPA’s community engagement group.
This group collaborates on projects which help us to meet our community engagement objectives. We are keen to engage with a wide range of New Zealanders and organisations, to hear what’s important to them and to think how best we can respond across the organisation.
"The broad goal is to literally save the planet."
Professor Michael Bunce, EPA's Chief Scientist
This year we launched our environmental DNA (eDNA) programme: Wai tūwhera o te Taiao - Open Waters Aotearoa.
"At its heart, our eDNA programme is about building bridges between people and nature. It uses eDNA testing to connect communities to their environment."
Vanessa Crowe, Senior Advisor, Customer and Community Engagement
When you want people to think or engage differently you need to ground it in something familiar and appealing. You can then open constructive dialogue.
"You need to be comfortable with not knowing where engagement will lead you, or how people will connect with your material."
Kai and kōrero
Sharing food and conversation is symbolic of building relationships and creating trust. Communication in this context is quite different from holding a seminar or giving a lecture. It’s about creating connections, listening, valuing different points of view, reflecting, and establishing an ebb and flow of ideas.
In 2019/20 we:
- hosted a Matariki breakfast in June for iwi partners and non-governmental organisations
- hosted kai and kōrero for members of the public to collate feedback on our messaging and social media channels
- updated our stakeholders and shared information about our initiatives
- participated in a Forest and Bird networking event at Victoria University of Wellington, encouraging students to consider careers in the environmental sector.
We conducted 13 investigations under the Ozone Layer Protection Act (1996).
We made enquiries or investigations into 52 reports of non-compliance with aerial 1080 operations.
We sent 23 letters to educate importers and suppliers of cosmetic products reminding them of their obligations under the HSNO Act.
Siobhan Quayle, Group General Manager, Regulatory Systems and Operations
Our strategic goal, Delivering the Right Decisions is core to the work of the Operations arm of the EPA.
"Our challenge is always to balance the many considerations that need to be taken into account, while enhancing the wellbeing of present and future generations."
Emma Burge, Geographic Information System Analyst
Making connections across geographic boundaries is part of who I am. In breaks between study and work, I once spent four months as a women’s education and health coordinator in Nepal, and three months in Lebanon, teaching English and maths to Syrian refugees.
Making connections is at the heart of mapmaking, which is now my career focus. I’m the EPA’s resident map nerd, and have now qualified with a Postgrad Diploma with Merit, in Geospatial Science.
"The EPA is a dream place to work for me and I care deeply about the environment."
We have committed to making a positive difference to the environment by joining the Toitū Carbonreduce programme (previously the Certified Emissions Measurement and Reduction Scheme), to monitor and reduce our carbon emissions.
As the table below shows, the results from our first emissions audit in 2019 were encouraging. We expect that the COVID-19 lockdown will show a reduction on the results from the next emissions audit.
|Source of emission||% reduction goal for 2021||% Reduction achievement 2018/19|
|Waste to landfill||15||23|