Changes to Radiation Safety Legislation

On 7 March 2016, the Radiation Safety Act 2016 was enacted.

The new Act came into force on 7 March 2017 at which time it repealed and replaced the previous Radiation Protection Act 1965 and its Regulations.

On 30 March 2016, the Prime Minister assigned responsibility for the new Act to the Minister of Health and responsibility for administering the Act to the Ministry of Health.

The new Act establishes a framework to protect the health and safety of people and protect the environment from the harmful effects of ionising radiation while allowing for its safe and beneficial use. The Act also enables New Zealand to meet its international obligations on radiation protection, safety, security and nuclear non-proliferation.

In dealing with ionising radiation only, the new Act is similar in scope to the legislation it is replacing. Non-ionising radiation will continue to be regulated under relevant safety, environmental or consumer legislation.

The new Act ‘saves’ licences and consents issued under the Radiation Protection Act 1965. This means that existing licences and consents will operate until the date on which they expire. As these licences expire, applications for their replacement will be considered under the new Act when the time comes.   

The new Act outlines high level fundamental requirements (sections 9–12) that every person or organisation dealing with a radiation source must meet. To specify how the fundamental requirements must be met for each area of radiation practice, Codes of Practice may be issued under sections 86–90. Consultation with current owners, managers, controllers and users of radiation sources on some Codes of Practice has already occurred. This process will continue for the remaining Codes of Practice throughout 2017.

The new Act also introduces a new licensing requirement for people or organisations that have control or management of radiation sources (source licences). Use licences are retained as a requirement of the new Act, but will be a more straight-forward because they will now be complemented by source licences. Consents to import/export radiation sources are also retained under the new Act and will operate in a very similar way as they do under current legislation. The new Act also has a number of features that will allow a graded approach to be taken to the radiation risk that is being regulated.

Also, the Radiation Safety Regulations 2016 (the Regulations) have been made to support the new Act. The Regulations establish the application fees for the various licences and consents that can be granted under the Act. Application requirements, conditional exemptions, and maximum periods for licences and consent are also dealt with in the Regulations. Information on the development of the Regulations is still available at Proposed Radiation Safety Regulations: Policy Approval.  A regulatory impact statement (RIS) analysing the options for proposed Regulations is also available.

To ensure that the overall framework is as straightforward and workable as possible, matters that are addressed in Codes of Practice have not been dealt with in the Regulations.

The Government decided the new Act was required in 2004. Part of the Government’s considerations for this decision was the Regulatory Impact Statement (pdf, 591 KB) (RIS) on proposed changes to the existing legislation. The public consultation discussed in the RIS was based on the Ministry of Health’s publication A Review of the New Zealand Radiation Protection Legislation: A Discussion Document (pdf, 357 KB), Wellington (2002) and a summary of the submissions received is available in the document A Review of the New Zealand Radiation Protection Legislation: Summary of Submissions (pdf, 256 KB), Christchurch (2003). 

In 2009, the Government made further policy decisions of a minor or machinery nature as a result of issues arising during the development of the new Act. The most significant of these decisions was to reduce the scope of the new Act so that it regulates ionising radiation only.

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