‘Residency’ edges closer for shortlist of new organisms
08 November 2021
A tomato plant virus is among seven organisms in line for deregulation, having recently established themselves in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) sought feedback on which new organisms should no longer hold regulatory status as “new” because they are effectively resident in Aotearoa. This deregulation process is conducted under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act, for species that arrived after 29 July 1998.
“We have carefully screened the shortlisted candidates, and no longer consider that they are new organisms because they’ve been present in Aotearoa for some time. This is not an assessment of whether or not we want them in the country, just a recognition of their presence here,” says Dr Chris Hill, General Manager of the EPA’s New Organisms group.
“This process is about making it easier for scientists wanting to conduct research on these organisms, and removing the unnecessary financial barriers for businesses wanting to make use of them.”
One of those under the microscope is the pepino mosaic virus, which has been detected by commercial tomato growers in Auckland. Although it has no impact on food safety or human health, and tomatoes are safe to eat, the disease can affect production. Some operators want to investigate a technique used overseas, where tomato plants are immunised with a mild strain of the virus to guard against potentially more aggressive strains.
A pest beetle which defoliates eucalyptus trees and slows their growth significantly, delaying harvests, is also a candidate for deregulation. This would enable scientists to conduct field and laboratory research more freely.
An insect, three plants, and a common bacterium round out the candidates drawn from a long list of 51 organisms gathered earlier this year during public consultation. Candidates were put forward due to their enduring presence in New Zealand, and whether they are currently not being managed, controlled, or eradicated under any law.
“We are now asking New Zealanders for their views on deregulating these seven organisms – or effectively giving them ‘residency’,” says Dr Hill.
Submissions close at 5.00 pm on 17 December.
The EPA will collate the public feedback and provide an assessment for the Environment Minister, before Cabinet makes a final decision on deregulation of any candidate organism.