Contaminated sites


The Australian and New Zealand Environment Conservation Council (ANZECC) define a contaminated site as:

"A site at which hazardous substances occur at concentrations above background levels and where assessment indicates it poses, or is likely to pose and immediate or long-term hazard to human health or the environment".

By definition, the management of contaminated sites is closely linked to the management of waste hazardous substances.

Site inspections and investigations

In the 2005-2006 financial year approximately 10 of the sites listed on the Selected Landuse Register were visited and inspected. By visiting the sites listed on the register, the information that is specified can be authenticated and updated. This leaves approximately 215 sites still to be visited in the future.

Investigations are also ongoing into a number of animal dip sites in the region. The photo below shows a historical sheep dip in about 1924. There are possibly around 50,000 contaminated dip sites throughout New Zealand.

Underground storage tank removal

Over the year, the four major oil companies continued their programme of fuel tank removal and replacement in the region. This programme is ongoing as fuel tanks come towards the end of their manufactured lifespan.

National working group and Environmental Standards

A national working group consisting of representatives from all Regional Councils and the Ministry for the Environment has been meeting with the aim of having a consistent approach to the collection of information, entry of data onto databases, and the categorisation of contaminated sites. However the newly proposed National Environmental Standards may in fact alter the categorisation of contaminated sites.

According to the Resource Management Act 1991 (s2), contaminated land is defined as the following:

Contaminated land means land of one of the following kinds:

(a) If there is an applicable national environmental standard on contaminants in the soil, the land is more than contaminated than the standard allows; or

(b) If there is no applicable national environmental standard on contaminants in soil, the land has a hazardous substance in or on it that-

(i) has significant effects on the environment;

(ii) or is reasonably likely to have significant adverse effects on the environment.

The Ministry for the Environment has recently released an information sheet entitled "Proposed Standards for the clean up of Contaminated Land to protect people", which is available on the Ministry for the Environment's website under hazardous publications. This sheet provides technical information on the proposed National Environmental Standards (NES) for the clean up of contaminated land. There were significant concerns raised about the proposed standards, so the discussion document for public consultation has not yet been released for comment.