Whether a chemical new to New Zealand should be allowed to be imported is the topic of a two-day hearing in Rotorua.
Draslovka, a Czech-based firm, has applied for approval to register and import ethanedinitrile (EDN) into New Zealand as an alternative to the fumigant methyl bromide which is used for insect pests, nematodes and fungi in timber logs for export at New Zealand ports.
A hearing on the application took place yesterday and will continue until about midday today. It follows a hearing in Wellington last week. The Environmental Protection Authority has appointed a three-person decision-making committee which includes Dr John Taylor, Dr Kerry Lang and Dr Ngaire Phillips.
Submissions on the application were open between February and April this year and some submitters spoke to their submissions at the hearing.
Among them were representatives of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, which did not take a stance on the application, and the Tauranga Moana Fumigant Action Group which called for further assessments on the safety of the chemical prior to a decision on whether it can be imported.
Steffan Browning from the fumigant action group said the group wanted any fumigants recaptured after being sprayed and dedicated facilities for fumigation to be carried out in.
"We don't know what the issues are with toxicity. We've heard some evidence but there's a whole lot of unknowns.
"I've got no doubt about the need for this type of chemical. Yes we need them but we've got to use them safely.
"We oppose EDN on the basis we're not confident there's enough information about it."
Browning brought up a March incident when four port staff, who were working 100m from where stacks of logs were being fumigated with methyl bromide, fell ill.
An investigation later found there was insufficient evidence to support claims methyl bromide exposure was to blame for the illnesses.
Chairman of the decision-making committee Dr John Taylor said the hearings were about seeing if the chemical was suitable for the purpose requested by the applicant.
"We can enter some more specific negotiations to resolve scientific difficulties which are at the heart of the decision we're making."
A final decision on the application will usually be made within 30 working days.