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Background information

Guide to key elements of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act 1996

Introduction to the HSNO Act

Introduction of any new organisms into New Zealand is regulated under the HSNO Act []. The legislation is strongly focussed on the health and safety of people and the environment. HSNO provides a framework for assessment and approval of applications to import, develop, field test, conditionally release or release novel compounds, microorganisms, plants, and animals that are new organisms including genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Clearly, biological control agents are subject to the HSNO Act.

The purpose of the HSNO Act

The purpose of the Act is to protect the environment, and the health and safety of people and communities, by preventing or managing the adverse effects of hazardous substances and new organisms. Principles to be recognized and provided for in the legislation include safeguarding the life-supporting capacity of air, water, soil, and ecosystems. There are matters to be taken into account in relation to the purpose of the Act, which include the sustainability of all native and valued introduced flora and fauna, intrinsic value of ecosystems, public health, relationship of the Maori people with the biophysical state, economic and related benefits and costs, and New Zealand's international obligations. The Authority is required to take into account the need for caution in managing adverse effects, where there is scientific and technical uncertainty about those effects. The HSNO Act is implemented by the EPA, (formerly the Environmental Risk Management Authority), a quasi-judicial body of 68 people appointed by the Minister for the Environment who are selected to represent a 'balanced mix of knowledge and experience' in the appropriate areas. The Authority is supported by the staff and infrastructure of the government Agency and together the Authority and the Agency form the EPA (the Environmental Protection Authority). While assessing effects, the decision-making Authority is required to use a consistent methodology that was developed as a regulation in 1998 (ERMA New Zealand 1998).


ERMA New Zealand (1998). Annotated methodology for the consideration of applications for hazardous substances and new organisms under the HSNO Act 1996. ERMA New Zealand, Wellington, New Zealand. 28 pp.