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    Frequently Asked Questions

What is contaminated land?

Land is considered contaminated when there are any hazardous substances present that could pose a threat to human health or the environment.

Hazardous land uses include orchards, market gardens and other horticultural land where chemicals may have been stored or spraying may have occurred; service stations and other underground or above-ground storage of hazardous substances; motor vehicle workshops, timber treatment sites and some industrial sites. Check out additional information here.

 

How do I know if my land is contaminated?

The only way to be sure about the status of your land is to seek professional advice from a suitably qualified and experienced practitioner (SQEP) who has experience in dealing with land contamination.

There are a number of things that you can do to find out more about your land.

You can:

  • Check the Ministry for the Environment Hazardous Activities and Industries List (HAIL). This is a compilation of activities and industries that are considered likely to cause land contamination resulting from hazardous substance use, storage or disposal. The HAIL is intended to identify most situations in New Zealand where hazardous substances could cause, and in many cases have caused, land contamination. Has one of these activities been carried out on your property? If so, then your land could be contaminated and could be included on the LLUR.
  • Check the Environment Canterbury Listed Land Use Register (LLUR). The Listed Land Use Register (LLUR) is a publicly available database that identifies sites where hazardous activities and industries have been located throughout Canterbury. Environment Canterbury has identified these sites and maintained the database for some years and has sped up the process since the Canterbury earthquakes because people rebuilding houses, repairing foundations or repairing earthquake-damaged land (all of which means soil is disturbed) should know about potential contamination before starting work. You can check out the LLUR here.
  • Check for physical signs commonly associated with contamination: including odours, stains, or the presence of storage tanks, and/or structures (e.g., sheep dipping trenches, tank pits).
  • When purchasing a property obtain a Land Information Memorandum (LIM) or a Property Information Memorandum (PIM) before you confirm your purchase. If you don’t investigate the potential for contamination and then find that the property is contaminated, you may be responsible for cleaning it up. You can ask the vendor and real estate agent about potential land contamination.  If you are selling a property and you are asked about land contamination you must reveal any information regarding contamination that you are aware of.  You cannot mislead a prospective purchaser about the state of the property.


Finally, the only way to know for sure whether a property is contaminated, is to have it investigated by a suitably qualified and experienced practitioner (SQEP) who has experience in dealing with land contamination. This will determine whether the land needs to be investigated, managed or cleaned up.

WHAT IS THE LLUR?

The Listed Land Use Register (LLUR) is a publicly available database that identifies sites where hazardous activities and industries have been located throughout Canterbury. Environment Canterbury has identified these sites and maintained the database for some years and has sped up the process since the Canterbury earthquakes because people rebuilding houses, repairing foundations or repairing earthquake-damaged land (all of which means soil is disturbed) should know about potential contamination before starting work.
You can check out the LLUR here.

WHAT IS THE HAIL?

The Hazardous Activities and Industries List (HAIL) is a compilation of activities and industries that are considered likely to cause land contamination resulting from hazardous substance use, storage or disposal. The HAIL is intended to identify most situations in New Zealand where hazardous substances could cause, and in many cases have caused, land contamination.

The HAIL groups similar industries together, which typically use or store hazardous substances that could cause contamination if these substances escaped from safe storage, were disposed of on the site, or were lost to the environment through their use.

The fact that an activity or industry appears on the list does not mean that hazardous substances were used or stored on all sites occupied by that activity or industry, nor that a site of this sort will have hazardous substances present in the land. The list merely indicates that such activities and industries are more likely to use or store hazardous substances and therefore there is a greater probability of site contamination occurring than other uses or activities. Conversely, an activity or industry that does not appear on the list does not guarantee such a site will not be contaminated. Each case must be considered on its merits, considering the information at hand.

In applying the list, it must be remembered that particular activities are a small part of a particular industry, with the activity generally localised within larger sites. For example, animal dip sites are listed, but farming is not. This is because dip sites are only a small part of a farm and farming, and in general, do not have a high potential to spread contamination over the complete farm. Therefore, the possibility of contamination will only be for a part of the land. You can check out the HAIL list here.

WHAT IS THE LEGISLATION THAT GOVERNS HAIL LAND?

The National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health (NES) came into effect in January 2012.

The Standard regulates five different types of activity where land is or has been previously used for a HAIL activity. It helps city and district councils to carry out their duties under Section 30 of the Resource Management Act. They must prevent or mitigate the adverse effects of the development, subdivision, or use of contaminated land.

The main effect of the Standard on homeowners is the regulation requiring resource consents if you want to remove or disturb large volumes of soil, subdivide the land or change the land use on potentially contaminated land. If your land repair work involves soil disturbance (e.g. excavation or filling) or removal, and the land has previously been used for a hazardous activity or industry, then you need to know about the NES as it contains rules that will be relevant to your land repair works.

To find out more about the National Environmental Standard and how it affects landowners, click here.

WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS IF MY PROPERTY IS ON HAIL LAND?

If your property is confirmed as having had a HAIL activity on it then you will need to consider the requirements of the NES when undertaking work on your land that involves soil disturbance. 

For additional information contact the Christchurch City Council’s Duty Planner on 03 941 8999 for further information prior to commencing work.
It’s important that you consider the safety of workers, your family, neighbours and the environment when undertaking land repair work on HAIL land. Note that depending on how the soil disturbance or excavation activity will take place (the amount of soil that will need to be disturbed or removed) you may need the assistance of a qualified practitioner to help you determine whether your activity is permitted under the NES.

What should I do if I think my land is contaminated?

If you think your land is contaminated the first step to take is to check Environment Canterbury’s Listed Land Use Register (LLUR). The LLUR contains information on where HAIL activities have taken place, and the information is being constantly updated.
You can also request a Land Information Memorandum (LIM) or a Property Information Memorandum (PIM) from your local council. To learn more about PIMs and LIMs click here.

You can also engage a suitably qualified and experienced practitioner (SQEP) to undertake more formal testing.
If you find out your land is contaminated, then you should take health precautions to keep your family safe.

What will investigations cost me?

Investigation costs vary.  They can depend on the size of your site, the current and previous land uses and the hazardous substances that might be present.

You need to ask the specialist practitioner for an estimate of costs .We recommend seeking and comparing quotes from different practitioners.

If a site investigation finds that the concentration of hazardous substances poses a risk to human health or the environment, you may need to remediate or manage your site. Your SQEP will be able to provide you with additional advice about the next steps for you to take.

How do I find a specialist to help with this issue?

If you want to investigate your land further, or if your land is on the LLUR and you want to know whether it is contaminated you must engage a suitably qualified and experienced practitioner (SQEP). They will undertake a Preliminary Site Investigation (PSI) that will show whether the land needs further investigation through Detailed Site Investigation (DSI).

The National Environmental Standard requires that any investigations are undertaken and signed off by a SQEP. This is someone who is independent, applies good professional practice and reports against appropriate contaminated land and industry guidelines. A Detailed Site Investigation should be signed by a suitably qualified experienced practitioner.  They will certify that the report complies with good practice and professional standards and that the practitioner stands by the conclusions of the report.

The expected minimum qualifications for a suitably qualified practitioner are:

  • Senior or principal scientist/engineer
  • Relevant tertiary education
  • At least 10 years of contaminated land experience.

Every person involved in the Detailed Site Investigation and subsequent report preparation does not necessarily have to meet all these minimum qualifications but the person certifying the report on behalf of their company would be expected to meet them.

To select a suitably qualified and experienced practitioner (SQEP), consult the Environmental Consultants listings in the Yellow Pages or online. You should seek comparative quotes from different practitioners before engaging a consultant.
Ideally the certifier would belong to a recognised professional body that assesses and certifies environmental professionals in the competency criteria of training, experience, professional conduct and ethical behaviour – membership of an industry association alone does not qualify. Professional bodies include:

What sort of testing will take place on my land to check for contamination?

Undertaking professional investigations is a staged process and is carried out in accordance with government guidelines.
A Detailed Site Investigation report should:

  • Assess the area, extent and nature of soil contamination at the site.
  • Evaluate whether soil contaminant concentrations exceed human health standards and guideline values established in the National Environmental Standard and other sources.
  • Identify and assess potential risks from identified contaminants to public health and the environment.

You can find out more about the process here

If my land is contaminated, what do I need to do?

The National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health (NES) came into effect in January 2012.

The Standard regulates five different types of activity where land is or has been previously used for a hazardous activity or industry. It helps city and district councils to carry out their duties under Section 30 of the Resource Management Act. They must prevent or mitigate the adverse effects of the development, subdivision, or use of contaminated land.

The main effect of the Standard on homeowners is the regulation requiring resource consent if you want to remove or disturb large volumes of soil, subdivide the land or change the land use on potentially contaminated land.

To find out more about the National Environmental Standard and how it affects landowners, click here.

To find out how the National Environment Standard may affect obtaining a resource consent from the Christchurch City Council click here.

If you live outside Christchurch city, talk to your local council.

Can I remove contamination - how do I fix it?

Your SQEP will also advise you about remediation options and process for managing, treating and disposing of contaminated soil.

How do I keep my family healthy?

If your property is contaminated, it’s important to maintain good hygiene standards when it comes to contact with your soil.

Make sure you wash your hands and any exposed skin after coming into contact with soil or before preparing food, and wash children’s hands and faces before eating and before bed time.

Make sure you remove shoes before entering your house, and use door mats. You should also consider using a vacuum with a HEPA filter and clean your carpets, rugs and upholstered furniture regularly.

Children’s play areas should be kept clean. Make sure toys are regularly washed, and that bare soil is covered with bark or mulch.

Who needs to know if my land is contaminated?

If you are selling your house, you have an obligation to make sure prospective buyers are aware of the contamination before the house is sold.

I want to develop my land, what do I need to do?

The National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health (NES) came into effect in January 2012.
The Standard regulates five different types of activity where land is or has been previously used for a HAIL. It helps city and district councils to carry out their duties under Section 30 of the Resource Management Act. They must prevent or mitigate the adverse effects of the development, subdivision, or use of contaminated land.
The main effect of the Standard on homeowners is the regulation requiring resource consent if you want to remove or disturb large volumes of soil, subdivide the land or change the land use on potentially contaminated land. If your land repair work involves soil disturbance (e.g. excavation or filling) or removal, and the land has previously been used for a hazardous activity or industry, then you need to know about the NES as it contains rules that will be relevant to your land repair works.
To find out more about the National Environmental Standard and how it affects landowners, click here.

Useful site links

Additional information can be found on the following sites:
Wasteminz is the largest representative body of the waste and resource recovery sector in New Zealand. Formed in 1989 it is a membership-based organisation with over 1,000 members – from small operators through to councils and large companies.

Environment Canterbury Contaminated Land: What does it mean to me and what should I do about it?
Environment Canterbury Contaminated Land Advice
Environment Canterbury Land Repair Frequently Asked Questions
Environment Canterbury Listed Land Use Register
Environment Canterbury

Ministry for the Environment Contaminated Land Management Guidelines
Ministry for the Environment About NES

Builders Pocket Guide
Asbestos Aware
Community and Public Health
Christchurch City Council
Worksafe NZ
Hazardous Activities and Industries List
LIMS, PIMS and Council Files