Policy, Laws & Agreements

Biosecurity activities are guided and influenced by domestic law and international agreements and standards to which New Zealand is a signatory nation. High-level strategies set out our future direction. The Ministry for Primay Industries interprets and applies these guidelines at a more operational level through a series of policies, agreements and frameworks.

The Biosecurity Act 1993, administered by the Ministry for Primary Industries, is the primary legislation providing a range of powers, duties and obligations. Other legislation, however, may take precedence or need to be used in conjunction with this Act. The Ministry also enforces the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 (offsite link to www.legislation.govt.nz) in respect of 'new organisms' not yet present in New Zealand.A register of the locations of and location controls on conditionally released genetically modified (GM) crops can be found here (offsite link to www.maf.govt.nz) .

International treaties and agreements set out principles, standards, criteria and recommendations for signatory nations. Many of these agreements are to safeguard trade, environmental or human rights.

To support the legal and international frameworks within which New Zealand operates, MAF Biosecurity New Zealand works with other biosecurity organisations to develop policy, guidelines and Memoranda of Understanding. These help set out the Crown's role, the participation of other parties, and further defines how the Ministry for Primary Industries works as a leader across and within the system.

Relevant Legislation

Biosecurity Act 1993

Further information on the Biosecurity Act can be found at: Biosecurity Act 1993.

Further information on the Biosecurity Act Review 2010 can be found at: Review of Key Parts of the Biosecurity Act 1993.

The Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO Act) (offsite link to www.legislation.govt.nz) aims to protect the environment, and the health and safety of people and communities by preventing or managing the adverse effects of hazardous substances and new organisms. The Act is administered by the Ministry for the Environment and implemented by the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA New Zealand, which makes decisions on applications to import, manufacture, develop, test or release a hazardous substance or new organism.

MAF Biosecurity New Zealand is the enforcement agency for the HSNO Act's new organisms provisions, and responds to detections of new organisms present in New Zealand without HSNO Act approval. This includes new organisms that have breached containment, conditional release, or other controls that have been set by ERMA New Zealand.

The HSNO Act may also apply (and compliance with an approval may be required) if a response involves using hazardous substances (defined as substances that are explosive, flammable, corrosive, toxic, ecotoxic, or have the capacity to oxidize).

The Ministry for the Environment administers the Resource Management Act (offsite link to www.legislation.govt.nz). Its purpose is to promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources. Part 3 of the Resource Management Act deals sets out duties and restrictions on the use of land, the coastal marine area, river and lake beds, and water. The Resource Management Act prohibits discharges of contaminants onto water or land unless the discharge is authorised by a regional council, resource consent or regulation. Activities during a response may require resource consents or exemption from Part 3. The process and requirements for exemptions are set out in section 7A of the Biosecurity Act.

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority (offsite link to www.nzfsa.govt.nz) administers the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Act (offsite link to www.legislation.govt.nz). The scope of this Act includes regulatory control of agricultural compounds (veterinary medicines/plant compounds), and their importation, manufacture, sale and use. If a response involves application of agricultural compounds then the requirements of this Act are likely to apply.

MPI administers the Animal Information Act. The Act sets out the approval of systems for the identification of animals and the use of such systems for identifying animals (including hide brands and ear marks). This legislation is scheduled to be repealed and animal identification and tracing policy to be consolidated under new legislation (the “National Animal Identification and Tracing Bill”) to be introduced in 2010.

The MPI Food Safety (offsite link to www.foodsafety.govt.nz) administers the Animal Products Act and the Animal Products (Ancillary and Transitional Provisions) Act 1999 (offsite link to www.nzfsa.govt.nz), and various regulations made under these Acts. They regulate the production and processing of animal material and animal products traded and used in New Zealand, or exported from New Zealand, to manage associated risks and facilitate overseas market access. The Animal Products Act requires all animal products traded and used to be "fit for intended purpose". This means they must meet New Zealand animal product standards. The New Zealand animal product standards are contained in Part 1 of the Animal Product Regulations 2000. The risk management system potentially applies anywhere in the value chain from production, through processing, to the market.

The Department of Conservation administers these Acts. Response activities that take place on conservation land or within marine reserves may require exemptions from the requirements of these Acts.

The Conservation Act (offsite link to www.legislation.govt.nz) addresses the conservation of natural and historic resources to maintain their intrinsic values, provide for the enjoyment of the public, and to safeguard the options of future generations. The Conservation Act established the Department of Conservation and sets out the functions of the Department.

The Freshwater Fisheries Regulations are made under the Conservation Act. They cover a number of matters relating to freshwater fish such as the licensing of fishers, the taking or movement of freshwater fish, the processing of those fish and the controls on the taking of indigenous fish.

The Reserves Act (offsite link to www.legislation.govt.nz) covers the set up and management of nature, scientific, historic, scenic and recreation reserves (among others). The purpose of such reserves is to provide for the benefit and enjoyment of the public, to ensure the survival of all indigenous species in their natural habitat, to preserve representative examples of areas that together originally gave New Zealand its own recognisable character, and to preserve public access to coastline, river banks, lake shores, and islands.

The National Parks Act (offsite link to www.legislation.govt.nz) sets out the establishment and management of National Parks. The purpose of national parks is to preserve, for their intrinsic worth and for the benefit, use, and enjoyment of the public, areas of New Zealand that contain scenery of such distinctive quality, ecological systems, or natural features so beautiful, unique, or scientifically important that their preservation is in the national interest. They are preserved as far as possible in their natural state.

The Marine Reserves Act (offsite link to www.legislation.govt.nz) provides for "the setting up and management of areas of the sea and foreshore as marine reserves for the purpose of preserving them in their natural state as the habitat of marine life for scientific study." In a marine reserve all marine life is totally protected, there is no fishing allowed, no polluting, disturbance or damage, and no removal of any natural thing from the marine reserve.

The Ministry for the Environment (offsite link to www.mfe.govt.nz) administers the Environment Act (offsite link to www.legislation.govt.nz), and is set up under the Act. The Act also creates the office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. The Act promotes the management of the natural and physical resources of New Zealand.

The Ministry of Primary Industries administers the Fisheries Act (offsite link to www.legislation.govt.nz). Its purpose is to provide for the sustainable utilisation of fisheries resources (which includes avoiding, remedying, or mitigating any adverse effects of fishing on the aquatic environment). The Fisheries Act allows for emergency measures to be taken if there has been a disease outbreak or "a significant adverse change in the aquatic environment". Under section 16 of the Act, the Minister of Fisheries may close an area by "prohibiting the harvesting of all or any fish, aquatic life, or seaweed in that area."

The Ministry for Primary Industries administers the Forests Act (offsite link to www.legislation.govt.nz). It will apply if, as part of a response, there is a need to destroy indigenous trees that are subject to the Act.

The Ministry of Health (offsite link to www.moh.govt.nz) administers the Health Act (offsite link to www.legislation.govt.nz). It deals with the improvement, promotion and protection of public health. Matters relevant to biosecurity include the powers and duties of local authorities, giving Medical Officers special powers during epidemics, the duty of ships’ masters to notify suspected infectious diseases, provisions relating to diseases that require quarantine, and regulations relating to public health, including prevention and the spread of infectious diseases.

The Department of Labour (offsite link to www.dol.govt.nz) administers the Health and Safety in Employment Act (offsite link to www.legislation.govt.nz). Maritime New Zealand and the Civil Aviation Authority have administrative and enforcement roles in their sectors; as the Police do in respect of commercial vehicles.

The Act applies to all New Zealand workplaces and places duties on employers, the self-employed, employees, principals and others who are in a position to manage or control hazards. Hazards arising from organisms or response actions will need to be managed recognising these responsibilities.

The Department of Internal Affairs (offsite link to www.dia.govt.nz) administers the Local Government Act (offsite link to www.legislation.govt.nz). The Act states that the purpose of local government is to promote the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of their communities. Guidelines have been developed where regulatory functions may involve local government, which has a duty to consult with rate payers under this Act.

The Ngai Tahu Claims Settlement addressed grievances from Ngai Tahu regarding the Crown's obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi. The Settlement included legal provisions to formalise Ngai Tahu's role in conservation management on their takiwa (ancestral land). Responses that could impact on Ngai Tahu's takiwa may need to consider the arrangements that were put in place as part of the settlement.

The Department of Conservation (offsite link to www.doc.govt.nz) administers the Wild Animal Control Act (offsite link to www.legislation.govt.nz), which regulates certain species of introduced animals defined by the Act to be "wild animals". These include deer, wallaby, thar, chamois, possums, and feral goats and pigs.

The Department of Conservation (offsite link to www.doc.govt.nz) administers the Wildlife Act (offsite link to www.legislation.govt.nz), which protects specified wildlife while permitting the hunting of some wildlife at certain set times, e.g. ducks, game, pukeko, Canada goose and other species. The Act also sets up Acclimatisation Societies.

Page last updated: 30 April 2012