Hazardous Substances

Public Health

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is tasked by the Government with regulating the introduction, management, use and disposal of hazardous substances within New Zealand. The EPA works closely with other agencies such as the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) and Ministry of Health (MOH).

All hazardous substances are subject to the provisions of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act 1996 (HSNO) and Regulations. These are base rules or controls to ensure the adverse effects of defined hazardous substances do not harm people or the environment.

What is a Hazardous Substance?

A hazardous substance is a substance which can harm people or the environment. A hazardous substance will have one or more of the following intrinsic properties:

  • Explosiveness
  • Flammability
  • A capacity to oxidize
  • Corrosiveness
  • Toxicity (including chronic toxicity)
  • Ecotoxicity, with or without bioaccumulation

A substance can also be defined as hazardous where on contact with air or water (other than air or water where the temperature or pressure has been artificially increased or decreased) it generates a substance which has one or more of the intrinsic properties mentioned above.

Monitoring and Enforcement - Who does what?

The HSNO Act assigns monitoring and enforcement roles to a number of agencies:

  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment - any place of work
  • Land Transport Safety Authority – any motor vehicle, any road, any rail vehicle or railway
  • Police – any motor vehicle, any road, any rail vehicle or railway line
  • Civil Aviation Authority – on aircraft and in, on or around any aerodrome
  • Maritime Safety Authority – in or on any ship
  • Ministry of Health – where it is necessary to protect public health
  • Territorial Authorities – in public places and private dwellings
  • Regional Authorities – in or on any premises where they are there for the purpose of enforcing provisions of the Resource Management Act.

What do the HSNO Control Regulations cover?

The Hazardous Substances Control Regulations cover:

  • direct substance property controls which manage the adverse effects of a hazardous substance (e.g. control of ignition sources around flammable/explosive substances)
  • lifecycle controls which define packaging, containers
  • identification, spill control and emergency response
  • tracking of the more highly dangerous substances
  • the training of those who handle or transport a hazardous substance

Who approves and certifies that a storage, use or container complies?

EPA accredited Independent Test Certifiers approve any particular storage or container and issue Test Certificates which certify that Regulatory Controls have been achieved.

How does the HSNO Act fit in with the Building Act and Resource Management Act?

The HSNO Act sits alongside the Building Act and the Resource Management Act providing the controls which will manage the assessed risks of the hazardous substances to be stored or used.

A Local Authority can impose stricter controls on the storage and/or use of any particular hazardous substance where it is necessary to meet the Resource Management Act or District Plan objectives of mitigating or limiting adverse environmental impacts arising from land uses.

How can I find out more about the HSNO Act?

Visit these websites:

Last updated: 24 Feb 2021