Pollutant Register back on the agenda

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Simon Upton, has suggested that there be an independent assessment into the case for New Zealand developing a Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR).  This would give the public access to information about discharges of chemicals and waste generated.  Anyone operating their business relying on the use of chemicals and the generation of waste will want to follow the Government’s response to this challenge so they can be prepared for greater transparency.

A PRTR is a publicly accessible database of pollutants released to air, water or soil or transferred off-site for treatment.  The Commissioner notes that New Zealand is the only developed country without such a register.  He considers that reasons previously given for not establishing a register no longer apply.

Past reasons were that (1) the relatively modest size of New Zealand’s manufacturing sector; (2) a register is at odds with our effects-based environmental legislation; (3) the majority of New Zealand pollution originates from non-point sources, such as fertiliser and pesticide use; (4) concerns around cost-effectiveness; (5) other environmental priorities; and (6) a lack of evidence of the benefits of such registers.

The Commissioner argues that these reasons do not apply now.  In particular, he expresses the views that the potential use of PRTR data for risk assessments and the derivation of pollutant limits aligns well with New Zealand’s effects-based legislation; methods for estimating non-point-source pollutant releases could be adopted; and the current environmental priority in New Zealand for a national framework of freshwater objectives would be assisted by a PRTR.

On 5 April 2019 the Commissioner wrote to the Minister and Associate Minister for the Environment, Hon David Parker and Hon Eugenie Sage, making the case for this assessment.  The Commissioner’s letter and supporting information is available to view here.

If you are interested in more information about pollutant registers and how you can be prepared for more transparency about environmental data please contact us.

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