New Zealand will have safely disposed of 225 tonnes of old and unwanted agricultural chemicals by June 2006.
The Ministry for the Environment and 13 regional councils have been working together over the past three years to collect agricultural chemicals, mainly from rural properties. This programme is near completion. The total amount of collected intractable agrichemicals exceeds earlier expectations and has greatly reduced risks posed to farmers, their families and the environment.
To date, the Ministry for the Environment has contributed $2.5 million through its Sustainable Management Fund to finance the disposal of the collected material. The Ministry intends to continue its efforts to clear New Zealand from unwanted agricultural chemicals in partnership with regional councils. It has allocated funding for an additional three years to continue the work. This will ensure that the remaining agrichemicals are cleared.
Most of the chemicals collected are so–called persistent organic pollutants (POPs) – chemical substances that persist in the environment and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to human health and the environment. New Zealand is a signatory to the United Nations Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. We are required to collect and dispose of agrichemical POPs.
So what have we been doing? In 2002 an estimate of the intractable agrichemical pesticides (some of which are POPs) was made to allow for an assessment of the total cost and time required to collect and dispose of agrichemical POPs. In addition, the 2002 estimate assisted in identifying which New Zealand regions resources should be invested. It was estimated that 282 tonnes of intractable agrichemical pesticides remained in New Zealand. Following this estimate the three–year collection programme was undertaken to collect and dispose of as much intractable material as possible.
Given that this programme is now near completion, an updated estimate is needed to determine how much intractable material remains and to determine if further collection programmes are required. This report estimates that a further 175 tonnes of material remains to be collected after June 2006.
This updated estimate is based on the 2002 estimate, with adjustments following feedback from territorial local authorities and data from the three–year collection and disposal programme.