Hazardous Incidents

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Number of incidents involving hazardous substances

Purpose of indicator

Incidents involving hazardous substances threaten and impact both people and the natural environment. While they may be infrequent, depending on the substance involved they are dangerous to life and have high potential impact on the environment.

Hazardous substances are described by the Environmental Protection Authority as “any substance that has one or more of the following properties above specified levels:

  • an explosive nature (including fireworks)
  • flammability
  • ability to oxidise (i.e. accelerate a fire)
  • corrosiveness
  • acute or chronic toxicity (toxic to humans)
  • ecotoxicity, with or without bioaccumulation (i.e. can kill living things either directly or by building up in the environment)
  • can generate a hazardous substance on contact with air or water.”

Current information and trend

When there is a hazardous incident, for example a fire, spill or leak involving a hazardous substance, the New Zealand Fire Service will contain and stabilise the incident while regional and district councils manage the clean up of the incident.

The long term trend (since 2000) and the short term trend (since 2007) show a decrease in the number of hazardous incidents (figure 1). There are two spikes shown in figure 1, the first in 2002 showing 37 incidents and 2007 showing 32 incidents. The latest figure for 2011 shows less than 10 incidents. This is significantly less than the number of incidents in 2002 and 2007. In 2009 and 2011 fire fighters took industrial action by not reporting on all incidents, meaning the data is not entirely reflective of hazardous incidents that occurred during this time.  However 2010 includes a full year of data, but shows an unusually low number of incidents.  Future reporting of this indicator will depend on whether full sets of ‘true’ data are available to accurately report on trends.

Table 1 shows that in 2011 only two types of incidents occurred; 8 liquid, gas leak or spills (with no fire) and 2 chemical emergencies.

Chart for Hazardous Incidents Reported
Figure 1.
Source: New Zealand Fire Service, 2012

Hazardous Incident Report
Table 1.
Source: New Zealand Fire Service, 2012

In summary

  • Decreasing trend of hazardous incidents reported is likely to be due to industrial action affecting numbers in 2009 and 2011, and unusually low number of incidents in 2010
  • The most common type of incident is a liquid, gas leak or spill without an associated fire
Page reviewed: 03 Jul 2019 10:12am