IANZ Gets the Big Four-Yearly Tick From International Expert

Published: Mon 15 Apr 2019 07:52 PM
With almost $30 billion worth of exports relying on IANZ accreditation each year, the assurance the organisation offers is vital to the New Zealand economy.
But who checks the checkers? That would be APAC (the Asia Pacific Accreditation Co-operation) and ILAC (the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation) which have just given IANZ the big tick.
IANZ is New Zealand's national authority for the accreditation of laboratories, inspection bodies and radiology practices. It accredits laboratories in all sectors, including medical testing, dairy testing, meat testing, drinking water testing, as well as mechanical and physical testing. It also accredits inspection bodies for engineering safety, food safety, and fire protection activities, as well as Building Consent Authority accreditation.
Every four years, APAC assessors come to New Zealand to check IANZ’s processes and confirm they continue to conform with the rules for Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs). These agreements are in place between New Zealand and more than 90 countries and allow their accredited laboratories to accept results and reports from NZ and vice versa. As well as giving customers confidence the goods they buy are up to standard, it’s also enormously important for New Zealand exporters and manufacturers as it gives them easier access to overseas markets.
A team of five assessors – from China, Hong Kong, USA, Canada and Botswana – gave IANZ the once-over and their preliminary report has high praise for the organisation:
“All the assessments witnessed were, without exception, of a high standard in terms of their scope, rigour and depth. The evaluation team was impressed with the expertise of staff and assessment teams; the quality and thoroughness of assessments; and knowledge of and adherence to procedures.”
It says there were no instances of non-conformance and that the assessment and surveillance activities of IANZ provide assurance that the results and data obtained by IANZ-accredited organisations are equivalent to those issued by organisations accredited by other APAC and ILAC MRA partners.
The international team is now preparing a detailed 150-page report for the APAC Council which then re-affirm IANZ’s MRA status for another four years. IANZ’s Business Support Manager Barry Ashcroft, who was the key liaison point during the week-long visit, says: “The MRA status gives our trading partners confidence that the laboratories and inspection bodies that IANZ accredits would be similarly accredited in their own countries. That is extremely important given more than half of the goods and products New Zealand sends around the world rely on IANZ accreditation to ensure they will be accepted overseas.
“It saves exporters a lot of red tape as it means other countries will accept inspection and test reports from us as if they’d been done in their own country. That includes, for example, laboratory tests covering the medical, dairy, meat, electronics and engineering sectors.”
Ashcroft says the assessors “looked at our general operation and structure and observed our team doing eight assessments in the field. It’s a very intensive process but very useful for us too.
“For some of the IANZ team, it was the first time they’d been through one of these and they were surprised at the depth of the international team’s enquiries. It really gave them a taste of their own medicine.”
Ashcroft has been an assessor himself for other accreditation bodies. “We are part of the APAC MRA and every accreditation body in the MRA has to have an evaluation every four years to confirm they comply with the agreement. This year, it was our turn.
“They evaluate us against the international standard for the operation of accreditation bodies (ISO/IEC 17011). We have to comply with that in order to be part of the MRA.”
In 2017, an independent investigation by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research demonstrated the crucial role accreditation plays in supporting the New Zealand economy. It found if IANZ didn’t exist the value of the country’s exports would fall by $2.36 billion, GDP would drop by 0.63% ($1.65 billion) and wages by 1.6%.
“Our economic modelling demonstrates IANZ secures a $4.5 billion export premium for accredited exporters. It also supports production in sectors that employ over 357,700 workers – up from 305,800 in 2000. These workers account for 17% of all employment in New Zealand,” the report said.

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