Hazardous Waste

 Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 (HSNO

The purpose of the HSNO Act is 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’. 4769

The HSNO Act is designed to regulate how hazardous substances are used across their life cycle. It focuses on the prevention of contamination by creating a regime of controls for how hazardous substances are contained,labelled, stored, used, transported or disposedof. 4773  The HSNO Act requires a register to be kept of set exposure limits for substances with toxic or ecotoxic properties, and creates enforcement provisions. 

The HSNO Act was amended by the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Amendment Act in 2015. From 1 December 2017, the rules around managing hazardous substances that affect human health and safety in the workplace will be transferred from the HSNO to the Hazardous Substances Regulations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA). Rules and duties to mitigate risks from hazardous substances will sit under HSWA for workplace risks and HSNO for non-work, public health, environmental risks and disposal of hazardous substances as well as regulating importers and manufacturers of hazardous substances.

The HSNO Act is implemented by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and enforced by a handful of government agencies. 4770  The HSWA is primarily administered and enforced by WorkSafe.

The HSNO Act defines 'hazardous substance' 4771 as any substance with one or more of the following intrinsic properties: 

  • explosiveness;
  • flammability;
  • a capacity to oxidise;
  • corrosiveness;
  • toxicity (including chronic toxicity);
  • ecotoxicity, with or without bioaccumulation; or
  • which on contact with air or water generates a substance with any of the above properties. 

 Many substances have more than one hazardous property. 

 Managing Hazardous Waste

The Ministry for the Environment states there is a significant risk to human health and the environment if hazardous wastes are improperly managed. 4774 New Zealand is party to international environmental agreements related to the import and export of hazardous waste which are designed to prevent harm to human health and the environment. 4775  A permit must be obtained before waste that is defined as hazardous is imported to, or exported from New Zealand.

The Ministry for the Environment have compiledGuidelines for the Management of Hazardous Waste” to provide guidance on best practice hazardous waste management for handlers of hazardous waste. Module 2 “Landfill Waste Acceptance Criteria and Landfill Classification” is designed to be implemented through the resource consent process. A new set of landfill classification guidelines is being worked on by industry and regional councils at the time of writing. 

Types of waste

Waste is classified into four general categories:

  • Natural, inert waste;
  • Municipal solid waste;
  • Industrial waste; and
  • Hazardous waste.

Disposing of waste - landfills

 Landfills are facilities for the controlled disposal of waste into or onto land. Under the RMA they must have consent conditions which are appropriate to the material they accept. 

A cleanfill is a landfill that only accepts waste that will not harm people or the environment put on or into land. Cleanfill material includes virgin natural materials such as clay, soil and rock. It is free of inter alia combustible, potentially hazardous substances and products derived from hazardous waste treatment. 4776

The severity of restriction on the design, siting, operating and monitoring of the landfills used for the disposal the other waste types depend on which waste type it is intended to dispose of. For example, restrictions and requirements on landfills for hazardous waste will be considerably more stringent than for landfills accepting only municipal solids. 4777


There is an Industry generated non- statutory code of practice 4778 for the transport of liquid waste and hazardous waste from the generator to a treatment and/or disposal point. The Liquid and Hazardous Waste Operators Certification Council oversee a national audit and certification scheme for operators based on adherence to the code.

 Planning controls 

Whilst there are no overarching statutory controls aimed specifically at hazardous wastes on land, 4780 under the RMA regional and territorial authorities are empowered to create planning controls on any actual or potential effects of the use, development, or protection of land, including for the purpose of - the prevention or mitigation of any adverse effects of the storage, use, disposal, or transportation of hazardous substances. 4781 Similar control is given to regional councils in regard to the coastal marine area including the dumping and incineration of waste. 4782 , the discharge of harmful substances from ships or offshore installations and prohibitions to dump or store any radioactive waste or other radioactive matter or toxic or hazardous waste on or in any land or water. 4783

Under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 district and city councils must develop a waste management plan 4784 .for their communities to manage waste disposal, waste treatment and waste reduction options like recycling. A 2008 Ministry for the Environment factsheet on waste states “It has been estimated that around 10 per cent of the waste we dispose of to landfill is hazardous waste.” 4785

 The HSNO Act does not include a separate definition for hazardous waste and it is expected that the requirements for approvals to be held by the person in possession of hazardous substances above specified quantities (under the HSNO regulations) will apply. 4786


  1. Section 4, HSNO

  2. HSNO enforcement agencies include; WorkSafe New Zealand (workplace safety), New Zealand Customs Service (border control), Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (energy safety), Ministry of Transport (transport of dangerous goods on land) Civil Aviation Authority (transport by air) Maritime New Zealand (sea transport of dangerous goods) Ministry of Health.

  3. Section 2, HSNO

  4. Part 5, HSNO

  5. http://www.mfe.govt.nz/waste/types-waste/hazardous-waste/definition-hazardous-waste

  6. United Nations Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (opened for signature 22 March 1989, entered into force 5 May 1992).

  7. http://www.mfe.govt.nz/waste/landfills-and-cleanfills/cleanfills

  8. See https://www.wasteminz.org.nz/pubs/technical-guidelines-for-disposal-to-land-april-2016/

  9. http://www.wasteminz.org.nz/pubs/liquid-and-hazardous-wastes-code-of-practice-2nd-edition/

  10. http://www.mfe.govt.nz/waste/waste-strategy-and-legislation/legal-framework-waste

  11. Section 30(1)(c) and 31(1)(b)(ii) RMA 1991.

  12. Section 15(a), RMA 

  13. Section 15(c), RMA

  14. Section 286, Waste Management Act 2008.

  15. Ministry for the Environment “Waste” (2008) Ministry for the Environment <www.mfe.govt.nz>.

  16. James Gardner- Hopkins "Hazardous Substances” in Derek Nolan (ed) Environmental and Resource Management Law (4th ed, LexisNexis, Wellington, 2011 [11.66].

Last updated at 3:53PM on February 8, 2018