Environmental Risk Management Authority

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The Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) was a New Zealand government agency which controlled the introduction of hazardous substances and new organisms (invasive species and genetically modified organisms).[1][2]

ERMA was principally responsible for implementing the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 (HSNO). It was disestablished on 30 June 2011 and the functions were incorporated into the Environmental Protection Agency.

The aim of ERMA was stated as:

"Achieve effective prevention or management of risks to the environment, public health and safety associated with importing or manufacturing hazardous substances and introducing new organisms, and their use."

The Authority of ERMA New Zealand made decisions on applications under Part V of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, by evaluating risks, costs and benefits, placing conditions on approvals; and making decisions on transitional licences and other approvals. ERMA New Zealand's Authority used risk management principles contained in the Methodology to guide its work.

Under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act 1996, the Authority was required to consider and weigh up the adverse and beneficial effects of a new organism or substance. The detailed decisions of the Authority also give an insight into how it has dealt with different aspects of risks, costs and benefits.

To mitigate any risks they applied controls (where relevant and possible) to the application, just as in everyday life we wear seatbelts to reduce the risks associated with driving. The controls might include housing the organism or substance in a specially designed laboratory or they may be to wear protective equipment when handling a certain hazardous chemical.

The Authority's role was to manage risks to the environment and to public health, and they do this through their decision-making processes on applications. When ERMA New Zealand received an application to import a new organism or a new substance they weigh up the adverse and beneficial effects on society, the environment, public health etc. and in many cases ask the general public to make submissions as to whether the new organism or substance should be allowed into New Zealand.

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