Regulating pesticides in New Zealand

11 March 2020

When making decisions about hazardous substances, including pesticides, the EPA considers a range of factors to ensure we’re making the right call for New Zealand.

We’re sometimes asked why we don’t automatically follow suit when an overseas regulator bans, restricts, or allows the use, of a particular chemical.

We are always interested in the decisions made by overseas regulators, and how they’ve reached them. However, when making decisions that affect New Zealand, we need to take into account our specific environment, how a chemical is used, economic practices and values, and to make sure our decision-making follows our laws. Because New Zealand differs from other parts of the world, we must take a case-by-case approach.

Our role under the HSNO Act

Our role is to regulate pesticides, household chemicals and other dangerous substances under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act. This means we make decisions on whether to approve new hazardous substances. We put rules in place called controls to manage the risks of hazardous substances – the goal being to safeguard people and the environment.

Based on new evidence, or a change in how a chemical is used, we can also formally reassess the original approval for it, and decide whether to update controls or even ban it.  

How we make decisions

We consider a number of sources of information, including scientific research, technical information from applicants, public submissions, and the perspective of Māori and economic assessments.

We monitor regulatory changes overseas, and new scientific information from within New Zealand and internationally. We check the validity of this information, particularly how it relates to the New Zealand context. Collectively, this information plays a part in making decisions about individual substances, and also which substances we should prioritise for reassessment. The use of chemicals can provide great benefits to New Zealand’s households, farmers, native species and industries - but there are risks and downsides if they or not used correctly, or behave in ways that were not anticipated.  

Deciding which substances to reassess

In October 2018 we published a priority chemicals list (PCL). The list of 39 chemicals was reached after screening more than 700 chemicals based on their hazardous properties and uses across New Zealand. It is a dynamic list that will change over time. Chemicals will leave the list as they are reviewed and/or reassessed, and other chemicals may be added if new information becomes available about them.

We must follow a statutory process in order to ban a substance or change the rules around its use, and this takes some time. If we have immediate concerns about a substance, we can issue an alert to the public and industry. One example of this was in April 2017, when we banned the sale of products containing chlorothalonil (used in some fungicides) to the general public. Another was a caution notice issued in November 2018 to alert consumers to risks posed by over-the-counter products which contain synthetic pyrethroids to kill insects.

Watch a short video about how we make decisions about hazardous substances and new organisms

Learn more about our priority chemicals list

Quick facts about our chemical reassessment programme