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12 December 2019

Industrial Gases

Currently, United Fresh is working on two aspects of industrial gases and proposed new regulations that will impact the fresh produce industry: refrigerant gases and the fumigant Methyl Bromide.

Refrigerant Gases: From 1 January 2020, in order to meet international obligations, New Zealand will begin phasing out older refrigerants that are greenhouse gases, as they contribute to global climate change. However, the new replacement gases are potential health and safety risks, due to toxicity or the requirements for higher pressures.

As such, the government is currently consulting with the refrigeration industry and other affected industries on the proposed changes to the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) that would require refrigeration technicians to obtain a license of competency before being allowed to work on refrigeration equipment, such as the chillers used by the produce industry.

United Fresh made an initial submission on behalf of the fresh produce industry in December 2018, during the first round of consultation. The TAG team is currently preparing a further submission on the topic, with the second consultation round submissions closing on 17 January 2020.

Methyl Bromide: this fumigant is used internationally to treat exports and imports for pests and diseases. It is also toxic and a greenhouse gas which contributes to global climate change. In 2010, ERMA (now EPA) made the decision to require recapture technology to be used during all fumigation events from 2020, to reduce environmental damage, and the potential risk to workers and the public. The proposed limits were set in 2010, based on the then-belief that technology would have advanced to the point where approximately 99% of released fumigant would be able to be recaptured. Whilst technology certainly has advanced, it has not advanced to that extent. The current possible recapture rate for produce sits at about 80-90%. United Fresh is actively engaged in a submission process that has been ongoing since June 2019.

On the strength of overall submissions received, EPA initially scheduled public hearings where the TAG team was to present in early December. The hearings were suspended at short notice, in order to call for further expert opinions on the topic, as it became apparent that data supplied to EPA from various sources was inconsistent and contributed to EPA’s impact/implementation model to be unreliable. The implementation date of the new regulations has been changed from January 2020 to October 2020. United Fresh will continue to engage on this topic, as the proposed changes would have a drastic impact on our members’ ability to import and sell imported fresh produce, as well as upon the fresh produce export industry at large.