A Northland man has succeeded in convincing the Environmental Protection Authority to reconsider whether a controversial horticulture spray should be allowed in New Zealand.
For the past year John Levers, of Kerikeri, has been lobbying to have the kiwifruit spray Hi-Cane banned and to persuade the industry to enforce its own spraying guidelines.
As part of his campaign Levers applied to the EPA for a re-assessment of the chemical, stumping up for the $1100 fee out of his own pocket.
In a decision yesterday EPA said new information submitted by Levers was sufficient grounds to revise the hazard classification for Hi-Cane.
Levers said he did not yet feel vindicated — that would come if the spray was banned — but he was delighted to have got this far.
''I've been working on this full-time for a year. It just shows what a little guy can do, if you're determined and don't take no for an answer.''
Levers said he would talk to the EPA today about the next steps, which he expected would take about six months.
Hi-Cane is generally used in August to promote even bud-break on kiwifruit vines, so any ban or tighter controls would be for next season.
The EPA was persuaded there were grounds to carry out a re-assessment after Levers submitted a European study into the effects of Hi-Cane's active ingredient on bystanders, spray operators, ground water and birds.
The European Food Safety Authority banned the chemical in 2008 and published its study in 2010.
The last time Hi-Cane was re-assessed in New Zealand was in 2006, so the reports provided by Levers counted as ''significant new information'', the EPA said.
However, there is no guarantee a re-assessment will take place. The EPA's next step is to decide whether it should go ahead.
That decision will be based on factors such as manufacture and import volumes, technical data, exposure mitigation measures, and the existence of alternatives.
New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers chief executive Nikki Johnson earlier told the Advocate the industry took spraying compliance ''very seriously'' and the majority of orchards followed best practice.
The industry was continuing to investigate alternatives to Hi-Cane and had seen some positive results with new products, she said.
Levers started his campaign in August last year after his dogs became ill and he found dead ducks and eels in the Puketotara Stream, which supplies some of Kerikeri's drinking water.
He believed the cause was Hi-Cane drift from a neighbouring orchard during high winds.
Industry guidelines prohibit use of the spray in windy conditions.
Levers, a former pilot who now owns a lodge and vineyard, is one of a record 11 candidates contesting the Far North mayoralty.