Review of anti-fouling paint
Paint used to prevent the buildup of aquatic plants and algae on boat hulls is being reviewed by the Environmental Protection Agency, which has called for public submissions on the issue.
New information from international regulatory bodies in the European Union, Britain, Australia and the United States has found certain anti-fouling paints could cause cancer and affect people's organs and their nervous system.
The paint slowly releases chemicals to prevent weed buildups that cause water friction and hull damage and to stop non-indigenous species piggy-backing into New Zealand waters.
The agency's reassessment report said toxins were most likely to affect people applying or removing the paint, and could also be dangerous to aquatic organisms.
The agency's acting applications and assessment manager, Johanne Spring, said preliminary research showed that the risks posed by some paints may be managed by stricter controls.
She said that while the paint provided benefits for the marine industry and helped with biosecurity, some types posed such a significant risk that they should not be used.
"To make sure that the outcome of this reassessment is one that is best for New Zealand, we are encouraging the public to have their say on the future use of anti-fouling paints," Ms Spring said.
Port Marlborough marina manager Steve McKeown said they had been working with the agency on the issue for the last couple of years.
"We are generally in favour of sensible guidelines," he said.
A lot of the old nasties had been taken out of the paints in recent years and safety guidelines and practices had also improved, with protective clothing always worn, and wind conditions assessed before applying the paint, Mr McKeown said.
Sealed hard-stands, where hull cleaning was carried out, had been installed at marinas in the region to filter out heavy metals and organic material that came off the hulls during cleaning.
"The environment agency reassessment will bring some [marinas] into line, but most are complying with the Resource Management Act, which already deals with some of these issues anyway."
He said he supported the reassessment process but the agency needed to remember that any changes to the rules could mean additional costs for boat owners.
Richard Clausen boat builders owner Richard Clausen said a big chunk of his business involved cleaning boat hulls and anything that improved safety was a good thing.
"Everyone is waiting for the day an acrylic paint comes out. It is better for the environment and easier and safer to put on," he said.
He said most boats needed to be de-fouled every 12 to 18 months.
"The industry could not survive without it," Mr Clausen said.
The public have until Thursday, March 7, to make submissions on the reassessment.
The Marlborough Express