December 2019: Year in review

18 December 2019

A message from Chief Executive, Dr Allan Freeth: It’s been a big year for the EPA, and I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on what we’ve achieved this year – and look ahead to what’s on the horizon in 2020.

A photo of Chief Executive, Allan Freeth.

The EPA’s Annual Report 2019 charts our progress against a set of principles we established last year, to guide out journey to being a proactive regulator. These include being transparent in our operations and decision making; being connected and aligned, nationally and internationally; and being evidence-driven in our decision making and planning.

Our journey is well under way, as we move from making change happen to making it count in the areas of engagement, processing applications and decision making, and compliance monitoring and protection.

Here are some of the highlights from 2019.

Read the EPA's Annual Report 2019 (pdf 2.1MB)

Greenhouse gas reduction

At the start of 2019 we announced that new regulations had come into force targeting greenhouse gases. These regulations, relating to hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) gases, are part of our commitment to the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement adopted by New Zealand, to phase out certain gases which damage the Earth’s ozone layer, and affect our climate.

Read more about the new scheme targeting greenhouse gases

Firefighting foams investigation

In April 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 persist for a long time with consequent damage to the environment and to human health.

An investigation of this size was the first for the EPA, having acquired our new enforcement powers following changes to the HSNO Act. No intentional non-compliance was discovered, and we worked with all parties to ensure that materials were decommissioned and stored securely, pending their safe disposal.

Read more about the PFOS firefighting foams investigation

Priority chemicals list

We have a dedicated team focussed on progressing the reassessment of 39 substances on our priority chemicals list. The list resulted from a proactive review of over 700 chemicals that are currently approved for use in New Zealand.

Paraquat was the first chemical on the priority chemicals list to go through this reassessments process. In a decision published last week (12 December), a Decision-making committee has introduced greater controls on the use of the herbicide, and announced that the sale and use of four specific products will no longer be allowed as of December 2020.

View the priority chemicals list

Read more on the paraquat reassessment

Community engagement

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. You can find out more in the new Community involvement section on our website.

Find out more about our community engagement

Reducing our carbon footprint

We’ve committed to reducing the EPA’s 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.

Coming up in 2020

We’ve got another busy year ahead, including:

  • the launch of our Mātauranga Māori framework and guide early in 2020
  • the reassessment of methyl bromide
  • the development of a chemical map which will help us identify the amount and geographic spread of any given chemical currently in New Zealand
  • improving regulatory oversight of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)
  • building on the work started in 2019 to support councils with their enforcement activities around the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA)

Thank you for taking an interest in the EPA’s work to protect New Zealand’s environment, people and economy. 

May you have a happy and safe holiday season.

Dr Allan Freeth, Chief Executive