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Frequently asked questions


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How do I find an existing new organism or hazardous substance application or decision?

​To find an existing new organism or hazardous substance approval, use the HSNO Application Register

You can search using keywords eg, GM animal field test, or by the application number, approval code for the organism or substance or by applicant name. 

All recent publicly notified hazardous substance and new organism application decisions can also be found on our website:

Hazardous substance decisions

New organisms decisions


How do I make a submission on a new organism or hazardous substance application?

​Submissions are a way you can contribute to the decision making of a specific new organism or hazardous substance application. You can only make a submission on an application that is open for public submission. 

New Organisms

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How do I find out about incidents involving new organisms?

What do I need to know if I want to import a product containing a live microorganism into New Zealand?

​You will need to work out if the microorganism is classed as a new organism.  Species of microorganisms that are new organisms need our approval to import or use in New Zealand.

Do you regulate GM food?

​We only regulate living (viable) new organisms. We don’t regulate imported food that contains devitalised ingredients derived from GMOs. 

For information about who does regulate such foods, go to:

You will need approval from us if the food is or contains a living GM organism (eg, a GM potato to be grown in New Zealand and then processed for food).

Hazardous Substances

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What is a hazardous substance?

A hazardous substance is any substance that has one or more of the following properties, above specified levels. 
  • an explosive nature (including fireworks)
  • flammability
  • ability to oxidise (i.e. accelerate a fire)
  • corrosiveness
  • acute or chronic toxicity (toxic to humans)
  • ecotoxicity, with or without bioaccumulation (i.e. can kill living things either directly or by building up in the environment)
  • can generate a hazardous substance on contact with air or water.

Hazardous substances can have more than one hazardous property.  For example, methylated spirits and petrol are flammable and toxic. 

For more information, see:

What is a hazardous substance?

What are hazardous substances controls?

​The HSNO Act 1996 and supporting regulations tell you how to manage or control hazardous substances.  The hazardous substance controls are the rules that you must follow to safely manage chemicals.  These controls apply throughout the life-cycle of a substance including manufacture, packaging, storage, transport, use and disposal.

All substances have a hazard classification. It is the classification that will determine how the substance is controlled. The hazard classification should be found on the safety data sheet, which can be obtained from the manufacturer or the distributor of the product. They are required to provide you with a copy.

You can also look up the classification of your substances in the:

Some substances are approved by means of a Group Standard.  In this case you must refer to the group standard to find out the conditions that have to be followed.  The safety data sheet will identify the group standard the substance belongs in. 

How do you get a hazardous substance approval?

All new hazardous substances need an approval. 

Group standards are approvals for a group of hazardous substances of a similar nature, type or use. Most domestic and workplace chemicals (except for pesticides, veterinary medicines, timber treatment chemicals and vertebrate toxic agents) are approved under group standards. If your substance is not covered under an existing approval, you need to make an application to the EPA.
If you do not know if your substance is approved:

Resource Management

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What is a Nationally Significant Proposal (NSP)?

To be processed as an NSP under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA), an application must be considered by the Minister for the Environment and/or Minister of Conservation to be a proposal, or part of a proposal, of national significance (i.e. to have national importance or effect in some way).

You can find details of recent NSPs and decisions on the EPA website

Who makes the decision on national significance?

The Minister for the Environment considers whether a land-based proposal is of national significance. The Minister of Conservation considers a coastal proposal. The Ministers work together to consider a proposal covering both land and coastal matters.

What factors do the Minister(s) consider for an NSP?

Factors that the Minister(s) consider when deciding if a proposal is nationally significant may relate to, for example, widespread public concern or interest; significant use of resources or irreversible changes to the environment; significant in terms of the Treaty of Waitangi; will assist the Crown in fulfilling its functions; affects more than one region or district; or relates to a network utility operation.

The Minister(s) must also consider the views of the Applicant, views of the relevant Local Authorities, and the EPA’s recommendation.

The Minister(s) then consider whether the matters should be referred to a Board of Inquiry (BOI), the Environment Court or the Local Authority to make the decision on whether to approve the application.

Emissions Trading

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What is the Emissions Trading Scheme?

The New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is a way of meeting our international obligations around climate change. The ETS puts a price on greenhouse gases to provide an incentive to reduce emissions and to encourage tree planting. 

What is a NZU?

A New Zealand Unit, or an emissions unit is the currency of the ETS. It is commonly referred to a "carbon credit". 

It is the primary unit of trade in the ETS issued by the Crown. Participants are required to surrender NZUs to the Crown to meet their obligations under the scheme.

How does emissions trading work?

The emissions trading scheme can be explained by using a simple example.

  • Firm A is an oil company. It needs to buy emission units to cover the greenhouse gas emissions it is responsible for.
  • Firm B is a large forestry company that receives emission units for land it is planting in forests. It is also cutting down some trees, leading to emissions for which it has to surrender emission units. Initially, Firm B has a shortfall of units but, as the new forest matures over time, it will have spare units it can sell.
  • Firm C is a major industrial user of electricity for which it has to surrender emission units. To help Firm C adapt to these higher costs, the Government gives Firm C a free allocation of emission units, which Firm C can sell to offset its increased electricity costs.

Under the emissions trading scheme, Firm A and Firm B both buy Firm C’s units in the short term to cover their emissions. Because it now has to pay higher energy prices, Firm C finds it is cheaper to invest in energy efficiency.

Over time, as its forest matures, Firm B has spare units available and sells them to Firm A.

Exclusive Economic Zone

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What are the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf?

  • The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is the area of sea, seabed and subsoil from 12 to 200 nautical miles offshore.
  • The Continental Shelf (CS) is the seabed and subsoil of New Zealand’s submerged landmass where it extends beyond the EEZ.  

What is the EEZ Act?

The Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environment Effects) Bill was introduced to the House on 24 August 2011 and was enacted on 3 September 2012. It came into force on 28 June 2013. 
The Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects—Non-notified Activities) Regulations 2014 came into effect on 28 February 2014.
The EEZ Act was amended by the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environment Effects) Amendment Act 2013 which was enacted on 22 October 2013. Relevant provisions of the Amendment Act came into force with the EEZ – non-notified activities Regulations.

Read the EEZ (non-notified activities) Regulations 2014 (New Zealand Legislation website)

Read the EEZ Amendment Act (New Zealand Legislation website)

The Ministry for the Environment is the policy agency responsible for the development of the EEZ legislation. More information on the policy behind the legislation, as well as the process used to develop the legislation and associated regulations, can be found on their website. 

What types of activity are controlled by the legislation?

The Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environment Effects) Act ( the EEZ Act) forms a part of New Zealand’s marine management regime. Other controls exist for activities in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – for example, fishing and shipping. 

The types of activity in the EEZ and Continental Shelf that are managed under the EEZ Act include:

  • exploration for petroleum and minerals
  • extraction of petroleum and minerals
  • aquaculture
  • carbon capture and storage
  • marine energy generation.

Some activities that are managed under the EEZ Act have regulatory requirements under other Acts as well.

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