Applying to import into containment
Preparing to make an application
Considerations specific to a containment application
For applications to import a new organism for release, one of the main concerns for the EPA is the risk that the organism will form an unwanted population in New Zealand, that is, will naturalise to form a self-sustaining population that may have adverse effects on the environment, health and safety of people and communities.
In contrast, the assessment of risks associated with importation of a biological control agent into containment mainly hinge on the ability of the organism to escape from containment. In carrying out its consideration, the Authority will consider the adequacy of containment and the magnitude and likelihood of the risks, costs and benefits alongside each other and in an integrated fashion. In considering the ability of the organisms to escape from containment, the Authority takes account of the:
- biological characteristics of the organisms;
- containment regime; and
- potential pathways for escape of the organisms from the containment (e.g. structural failure, deliberate removal, disaster, etc),
The design and construction, together with the operating procedures, for an approved containment facility must ensure that the risks of escape to the environment is negligible. If this was not so, the containment facility would not be approved. However containment is not just about the physical structure and procedures it is also affected by the physical characteristics, biology and behaviour of the organisms which must also be taken into account. Although applicants must still assess the risks and costs that might ensue following escape from containment, in practice, the barrier imposed by containment makes the likelihood of environmental exposure to the imported organism highly improbable, and the overall risk will almost always be very low.
Because of this, the EPA often chooses to deal with containment applications without public notification via a non-notified pathway and in a relatively short timeframe. However, the EPA has the discretion to notify the application and call for public submissions if the level of public interest is expected to be high.
Refer to the EPA's non-notified application pathway flowchart [http://www.epa.govt.nz/Documents/is-flowchart-non-notified-applications-January%202011.pdf].
The written decision to approve the introduction of Aceria genistae [http://www.epa.govt.nz/search-databases/Pages/applications-details.aspx?appID=NOC05012#] into containment provides an example of how the EPA makes such a determination. A further example of a decision on an application (with controls) for containment is for the weevil Apion onopordi [http://www.epa.govt.nz/search-databases/Pages/applications-details.aspx?appID=NOC02004#], which was later considered for release for Californian thistle control. The controls included a condition that "the native puha and introduced puha are included in the first round of host plant testing."
Approved containment facilities