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Hazardous activities, land contamination and resource consent applications

By Rose Leighton, Planner, Baseline Group | Feb 14, 2022

When preparing a land use or subdivision consent, one of the first steps a planning consultant will do for you is check your site on the Listed Land Use Register on the Environment Canterbury (ECan) Website. This register summarises information known to ECan about hazardous activities that are either known to have occurred, or are currently occurring, on land. The use of certain hazardous substances such as pesticides, fuels or oils, can stay present in soil for a long time. High levels of these contaminants can have adverse effects on human health if the site is developed for activities such as residential occupation or for growing food on the site.

While most residential sites within Selwyn are unlikely to be contaminated, there is always the chance that any site has previously been used for one of the government’s generated list of identified activities such as horticultural purposes or engineering workshops. Just because your land is not listed on the register as being having a hazardous activity occur, this may not mean you are out of the woods yet. The register only records known activities; therefore, Selwyn District Council often asks for a Preliminary Site Investigation (PSI) to confirm the site is appropriate for the intended use.

Looking at historic photos of your land, an environmental scientist can determine whether there may have been hazardous activities occurring on the site at any point in time. They may also interview previous landowners where possible. A PSI can provide the confidence Council needs to confirm that no hazardous activities have occurred that might give rise to contamination in the soil.

In the event that your site is identified as having hazardous activities occurring on it, a Detailed Site Investigation (DSI) will be required. A DSI involves soil sampling in order to determine the level of contamination and whether it needs to be removed to an appropriate disposal facility or otherwise managed, in order to allow the land to safely facilitate the proposed activity.

The National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health (NESCS), is the legislation that drives the need for these investigations. It ensures that land which is potentially affected by persistent contaminants in the soil is appropriately identified, assessed and remediated before an activity occurs. This is to ensure that any effects on human health are managed, and land is appropriate for residential activity or subdivision.

A planning consultant will guide you in what information to provide to Council. If your land is not listed by ECan as having hazardous activities occurring, and Council requests a PSI during your resource consent application process, your planning consultant will be able to direct you to environmental scientists who are suitably qualified for this work. They may even engage the appropriate professionals on your behalf and manage the work that needs to be done in order for your consent to be approved.

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