Public to have say on restrictions for products containing mercury

Date:  01 July 2020

Members of the public can have their say on proposed new restrictions to ensure New Zealanders no longer buy products containing mercury.

The Ministry for the Environment today released a public consultation document Managing the trade in mercury and mercury products. 

It is seeking information and feedback from retailers, consumers, importers, exporters and the general public. 

The proposed regulations would prevent harmful mercury in certain batteries, switches and relays, lamps, and non-electronic measuring devices, which will bring New Zealand into line with international standards.

The current levels of mercury in New Zealand are low and have been declining for a number of years, but there is a need to act now as there are no known safe levels of mercury in humans.

Once mercury is in the environment it accumulates in the food chain, mostly in ocean fish. Mercury can last in the environment for decades. If humans consume mercury, it can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and immune system of people of all ages. It is particularly harmful to unborn children and infants.

The proposals bring the Government a step closer to ratifying the international Minamata Convention on Mercury, which seeks to protect human health and the environment from the impact of mercury. 

The changes proposed ensure New Zealand is doing its bit as a good global citizen. Domestic management of hazardous substances like mercury do not work on their own. By participating in international agreements like Minamata, New Zealand is also able to flag issues of importance to our country and the Pacific region.

New Zealand is a signatory to the 2013 global Minamata Convention agreement. Parties to the convention will not be allowed to manufacture, import or export certain products containing mercury from 2021.

Regulatory changes are proposed to the Waste Minimisation Act 2008, to ban the manufacture and sale of specific mercury-containing products, and to the Imports and Exports (Restrictions) Act 1988, to control the trade of mercury and to regulate the import and export of specific mercury-containing products.
 
Consultation is open now and closes at 5.00pm on 5 August 2020.

Full consultation document and further details about making a submission