Across the Bay of Plenty thousands of sites have been identified as having the potential to be contaminated, or have been contaminated, from the use, application, storage or disposal of hazardous substances.

As further land is developed for more sensitive land uses, such as residential development, it’s important to know the location of these sites to help investigate, manage and mitigate the potential risks posed to human health and the environment.

What is contaminated land?

Land is considered to be contaminated when hazardous substances are at concentrations above what would be considered their normal background concentrations, and are reasonably likely to have a significant adverse effect on human health and/or the environment. A background concentration is a naturally occurring concentration of a substance in the area local to the land.

When is contaminated land a problem?

Exposure to contaminated land is considered a problem when:

  • uncontrolled contact, ingestion or inhalation of a hazardous substance(s) is possible, and
  • the hazardous substance(s) has the potential to leach through soil into groundwater or nearby waterways or be carried to nearby land and waterways in rainwater runoff or as dust.

I just want to build a house on a paddock, how can that land be contaminated?

Sometimes what looks like a ‘just a paddock’ could have had a previous use, been intensively sprayed with fertilisers or pesticides or be located adjacent to a different land use where contaminants have migrated from. None of these scenarios are uncommon in the Bay of Plenty.

Therefore, before you build a new home it is important to identify if the current or previous use of the land could have contaminated the soils so it doesn’t become your new back garden where your family will play and possibly grow plants and vegetables.

How do you know if land is contaminated?

Under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA), regional councils are responsible for identifying and monitoring land that may be contaminated.

To support the identification of land that may be contaminated, the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) has compiled a list of activities and industries that are considered likely to cause land contamination. This list is called the Hazardous Activities and Industries List (most commonly referred to as the HAIL) and is intended to identify most situations in New Zealand where hazardous substances could cause land contamination.

At the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, information about contaminated land is recorded on the Land Use Register. Details regarding a specific property can be requested from this register by using our online Land Use Register HAIL Request Form here or viewed online via our map gallery.

Please note the Land Use Register is constantly being updated which means not all properties that previously had, or currently has, an activity or industry identified on the MfE’s HAIL may have been recorded yet. Therefore, it is recommended the following is also considered when determining if land is contaminated:

  • find out what the previous activities or industries that took place on the property and neighbouring properties were,
  • check for physical signs of contamination i.e. odours, stains, evidence of storage tanks etc.,
  • consult the MfE’s HAIL, and
  • contact your local district or city council and regional council for any information it may hold about the property.

What happens if my land is on the Regional Council’s Land Use Register?

If your land has been identified as having (or potentially having) an activity or industry from the MfE’s HAIL and is registered on the Regional Councils Land Use Register, it does not necessarily mean that it is contaminated. Instead it means that it has historically or is currently being used for an activity or industry that could result in contamination. Living on a HAIL site does not mean your health or the quality of the environment around it is affected.

When land is identified and added to the register it is assigned one of seven categories:

  1. Verified Non-HAIL – information shows that the property has not been associated with any of the activities or industries on the HAIL.
  2. Unverified HAIL - information suggests an activity or industry on the HAIL has occurred, however the reported use has not been confirmed.
  3. Verified HAIL Site - information suggests an activity or industry on the HAIL has occurred and the use has been confirmed, but there is insufficient information to quantify adverse effects or risks to people or the environment from the known activity or industry.
  4. At or below background – the property has been investigated or remediated, with the investigation or post remediation validation results confirming there are no hazardous substances above local background concentrations other than those that occur naturally in the area.
  5. Suitable for [specified land use] – the property has been investigated and the results show that there are hazardous substances present at the property but indicate that any adverse effects or risks to people and/or the environment are considered to be so low as to be acceptable.
  6. Managed for [specified land use] – the property has been investigated and the results show that there are hazardous substances present at the property in concentrations that have the potential to cause adverse effects or risks to people and/or the environment but these risks are being managed to prevent exposure.
  7. Contaminated for [specified land use] – the property has been investigated and the results show that the site has a hazardous substance in or on it, or in groundwater or surface water that has significant adverse effects on human health and/or the environment; and/or is reasonably likely to have significant adverse effects on human health and/or the environment

Specified land use scenarios include:

  • Rural residential
  • Residential
  • High density residential
  • Industrial / Commercial
  • Recreational
  • Agricultural
  • Other

Unfortunately the Regional Council is unable to remove any properties from the Land Use Register, it is important that we retain the information on file as an audit system so we can ensure that the same property is not re-identified in the future.

Regional Council makes every effort to ensure we have accurately identified the location, extent and relevant information about each property registered on the Land Use Register. If you have information, such as a preliminary site investigation, detailed site investigation or other records that clearly show your property has not had a past hazardous activity, or if other hazardous activities have occurred which we have not listed, please let us know so we can verify this.

If we have incorrectly identified a hazardous activity or industry on your property, we will verify the information provided and work with you to change the classification accordingly. Again, Regional Council retains the information on file so we can ensure that the same site is not re-identified in the future, so it will still be visible on our online Maps.

Know the rules

The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) prescribes the functions of local government for the management of natural and physical resources.

Bay of Plenty Regional Natural Resources Plan

Under the RMA, regional councils are responsible for managing the discharge of contaminants to the environment (land, air or water) which they do through regional plans and rules. Regional rules may allow a discharge as a permitted activity, or through a resource consent, if the requirements of a permitted activity cannot be met.

Rules relating to contaminated land in the Bay of Plenty Regional Natural Resources Plan (RNRP) include:

  • DW R24 (Rule 34) Permitted – Active Remediation of Contaminated Land
  • DW R25 (Rule 35) Restricted Discretionary – Remediation or Disturbance of Contaminated Land

For further information on the requirements of the rules relating to contaminated land please refer to the Bay of Plenty Regional Natural Resources Plan or contact the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to discuss with the Duty Planner.

Resource Management (National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health) Regulations 2011

The National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health (NES:CS) came into effect on 1 January 2012 and is a nationally consistent set of planning controls and soil contaminant values that ensures that land affected by contaminants in soil is appropriately identified and assessed before it is developed.

If your land is or has been affected by a hazardous activity or industry as described on the Ministry for the Environment’s (MfE) Hazardous Activities and Industries List (HAIL) and you want to undertake a specified activity, as outlined below, you will need to comply with the NES:CS.

  • Removing or replacing of fuel storage systems or part of a fuel storage system
  • Soil sampling
  • Earthwork activities/soil disturbance
  • Subdivision of land
  • Change of land-use

Note: The enforcement of the NES:CS requirements sits with the territorial authority rather than the Regional Council.

For further information on the requirements of the NES:CS please refer to National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health: Information for landowners and developers or contact your local district or city council to discuss.