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Environment Protection Authority

Environmental Issues

Chemicals and pesticides

Managing pesticides in NSW


Many Commonwealth and NSW government agencies, as well as other stakeholder organisations, have a role in managing pesticides in NSW. This page explains the roles of some of these organisations and provides information on where to seek guidance on pesticides and their use.

Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority 

Pesticide products sold in Australia must be approved and registered by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA). Before registering a product, the APVMA is required to conduct an assessment of the potential impacts of the pesticide on the environment, human health and trade, and of the likely effectiveness of the pesticide for its proposed uses. When a pesticide contains an active constituent not previously used in Australia, the APVMA must seek public comment before registering the product.

Only registered pesticides can be used in NSW, unless the APVMA grants approval for use under a permit. Registration includes approval of label directions for each pesticide product. Label directions specify how, and under what circumstances, the pesticide may be used to treat the relevant target pest or pests. Labels also give directions on clean-up, storage and disposal, and personal and environmental safety. After registration, the APVMA regulates pesticides up to and including the point of retail sale. Once sold, pesticides are regulated by each state's control-of-use legislation.

The APVMA's Chemical Review Program reviews the registration of existing pesticides to determine whether changes are necessary to the registration or the registration should be withdrawn. The APVMA invites the public to make submissions on existing pesticides, and these submissions are considered as part of the review.

The APVMA has published an information sheet which set out its role and responsibilities. This sheet is available on the APVMA website.

What are pesticides?

A pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances used to destroy, suppress or alter the life cycle of any pest. For a legal definition and more detailed information see the EPA's What are pesticides and how do they work? webpage.

NSW Environment Protection Authority

In NSW, the Pesticides Act 1999 requires the users of registered pesticides to strictly follow the approved label or permit directions. The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) enforces the proper use of pesticides in NSW, including those used in agriculture, on public lands and on domestic and commercial premises, but not veterinary chemicals, which are regulated by the Department of Primary Industries. The EPA has hundreds of officers who are authorised to enforce the provisions of the Pesticides Act.

The EPA also provides guidance, through education programs and audits, and facilitates communication among different stakeholder groups to help pesticide users improve their management of pesticides.

From 1 September 2015 the EPA will not only licence aerial pesticide applicators but also pest management technicians and fumigators under the Pesticides Regulation 2009.

Many pesticides, because of their flammability, combustibility or toxicity, are classified as dangerous goods. While dangerous goods are being transported on public roads, they are regulated by the EPA under the Dangerous Goods (Road and Rail Transport) Act 2008. SafeWork NSW (formerly WorkCover) regulates the transport of dangerous goods on private roads.

Under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act), the EPA regulates general pollution and waste matters in NSW. This control also applies to pesticides. For example, fish kills caused by pesticide residues in waterways are generally investigated under the POEO Act.

The EPA evaluates the impacts of chemicals, including pesticides, on organisms and the environment through the Centre for Ecotoxicology, which is part of a cooperative research venture with the University of Technology Sydney.

SafeWork NSW (formerly WorkCover)

Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act), SafeWork NSW (formerly WorkCover) seeks to protect workers in the workplace. Regulations under the WHS Act control hazardous substances including most (though not all) pesticides. The Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 is the most recent and important of these. It covers identification of hazardous substances in the workplace and the assessment and control of risks associated with their use.

To help industries implement the Workplace Health and Safety Regulation, SafeWork NSW (formerly WorkCover) has developed the following codes of practice: Safe Use and Storage of Chemicals (Including Pesticides and Herbicides) in Agriculture and Safe Use of Pesticides, Including Herbicides in Non-agricultural Workplaces. These publications are a practical guide to the standard of health, safety and welfare required by this Regulation and the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000.

Some pesticides are classified as dangerous goods because they are flammable or combustible liquids or because of their toxicity. SafeWork NSW (formerly WorkCover) is responsible for regulating the classification, packaging, labelling, use and storage of dangerous goods. It is also responsible for regulating the transport of dangerous goods on private roads. (The EPA regulates the transport of dangerous goods on public roads.)

For information on the safe use of pesticides and occupational health and safety, see the SafeWork NSW (formerly WorkCover) website.

NSW Health

NSW Health advises on and assesses health-related pesticides incidents. The Environmental Health Branch of NSW Health is involved with the general policy aspects of chemicals (including pesticides) and health. NSW Health also works with the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety, Moree, which focuses on agricultural health and pesticide matters.

NSW Health laboratories test for pesticide contamination in drinking water samples, in accordance with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

The Pharmaceutical Services Branch of NSW Health administers legislation on scheduled poisons with respect to the national requirements for the labelling and packaging of scheduled pesticides for domestic use. These requirements are outlined in the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing Therapeutic Goods Administration publication, Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Medicines and Poisons (SUSMP).

NSW Food Authority

Under the NSW Food Act 2003, the NSW Food Authority routinely monitors results of pesticide and other chemical samples submitted by food companies to ensure compliance with the Australia and New Zealand Food Standards Code.

The NSW Food Authority also contributes to the Australian Total Diet Survey, which monitors the level of pesticides and contaminants in food and estimates their intake in the diets of Australians.

NSW Department of Primary Industries

The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) regulates veterinary chemicals (under the Stock Medicines Act 1989) and stock foods (under the Stock Foods Act 1940 and the Stock (Chemical Residues) Act 1975). It also administers the Noxious Weeds Act 1993 and the Local Land Services Act 2013. For more information, see EPA's chemical managment page and/or visit the DPI website.

The DPI provides advice on the use of farm chemicals in agricultural production, including information on integrated pest-management systems that can minimise the use of pesticides and other farm chemicals. The DPI, through the Livestock Health and Pest Authorities (formerly Rural Lands Protection Boards) network, also provides training and advice and oversees the use of poisons for the control of feral pest animals.

NSW DPI publications, Primefacts and factsheets, contain information on a range of agricultural topics including the use of farm chemicals.

Local Land Services

The responsibilities of Local Land Services (formerly Livestock Health and Pest Authorities) include control of pest animals and the supply and distribution of pesticides for vertebrate pests, plague locusts and wingless grasshoppers. Local Land Services also provide training and advice and oversee the use of pesticides for the control of feral pest animals.

The detection and control of plague locusts is coordinated on a national basis by the Australian Plague Locust Commission.

Local government agencies

Local councils have planning, regulatory, management, research and/or monitoring roles relevant to pesticides. Local councils and some county councils are responsible for noxious weed control within local government areas and have an important role in zoning for appropriate adjacent land uses under local environmental plans (LEPs) and other planning mechanisms.

Important non-government information sources

Many industry groups, chemical suppliers, and community and environment organisations have useful information on managing and using pesticides.

The agricultural and veterinary chemicals industry program, Agsafe, accredits agricultural and veterinary chemical supply premises and staff, and may impose sanctions where accreditation obligations are not met. Commercial resellers of agricultural and veterinary chemicals must have Agsafe-trained staff who are bound by an industry code of conduct to issue responsible and professional advice. Agsafe also coordinates a program of managing waste farm-chemical containers, in collaboration with the National Farmers' Federation, the Australian Local Government Association, and agricultural and veterinary chemical supply associations.

There are many interest groups, community-based organisations and environment groups with expertise in pesticide matters. Examples include local and peak environment groups, organic grower associations and organisations representing pesticide user groups such as urban pest controllers and aerial applicators.

Further contacts

Local Government NSW
(02) 9242 4000

National Farmers' Federation
(02) 6269 5666

NSW Farmers' Association
(02) 8251 1700

Australian Local Government Association
(02) 6122 9400

Local Land Services
(formerly Livestock Health and Pest Authorities)
1300 795 299

Australian Plague Locust Commission
(02) 6272 5076

Agsafe (Croplife Australia)
(02) 6230 4799

Total Environment Centre
(02) 9211 5022

Nature Conservation Council of NSW
(02) 9516 1488

Organic Retailers and Growers Association 
1800 356 299 or (03) 9737 9799

Aerial Application Association of Australia
(02) 6241 2100

Australian Environmental Pest Managers Association
1800 252 772

Page last updated: 13 October 2016