About the National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health

This page provides information on the National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health (NESCS) and includes guidance for territorial authorities.

The Government recently consulted on proposed amendments to the NESCS. Find out more

Link to the NESCS 

What the NESCS is

The National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health (NESCS) is a nationally consistent set of planning controls and soil contaminant values. It ensures that land affected by contaminants in soil is appropriately identified and assessed before it is developed - and if necessary the land is remediated or the contaminants contained to make the land safe for human use. 

The NESCS came into effect on 1 January 2012.

Why the NESCS is needed

The past use of chemicals (hazardous substances) in industry, agriculture and horticulture has left a legacy of soil contamination in New Zealand. This contamination is mainly caused by past practices including storage and use of hazardous substances, and disposal of hazardous wastes.

These contaminants are a problem when the hazardous substances are at a concentration and a place where they have, or are reasonably likely to have, an adverse effect on human health and the environment. Contaminants are a greater problem in environments where food is grown or in close proximity to buildings, people, water bodies and important habitats.

Prior to the NESCS, the controls applied by councils to manage contaminated soils were not consistent across the country. The NESCS means all councils now follow the same planning and decision-making framework.

Further information on why the NESCS is needed is contained in the following documents. 

What the NESCS covers

The NESCS classifies as permitted activities (meaning no resource consent is required if stated requirements are met):

  • removal or replacement of fuel storage systems and associated soil, and associated subsurface soil sampling
  • soil sampling
  • small-scale (no greater than 25 cubic metres per 500 square metres of affected land) and temporary soil disturbance activities (no more than two months’ duration)
  • sub-dividing land or changing land use where a preliminary investigation shows it is highly unlikely the proposed new use will pose a risk to human health.

Requirements for local authorities

All territorial authorities (district and city councils) are required to observe and enforce the requirements of the NESCS. 

Regional councils are required to investigate land for the purposes of identifying and monitoring contaminated land. To fulfil this function, most regional councils maintain a contaminated sites database. These are often the primary source for territorial authorities identifying potential HAIL sites.

Guidance on implementing the NESCS

A users’ guide on the NESCS, its requirements and how it applies was published in April 2012. As well as guidance on the application of the regulations, it contains case studies and some good practice examples for councils. An information leaflet for landowners and developers is also available.

Material incorporated by reference

Public Notice – Access to Material Incorporated by Reference

The Resource Management (National Environmental Standards for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health) Regulations 2011 incorporate the following material by reference:

Contaminated Land Management Guidelines No.1 – Reporting on Contaminated Sites in New Zealand

Contaminated Land Management Guidelines No.2 – Hierarchy and Application in New Zealand of Environmental Guideline Values

Contaminated Land Management Guidelines No.5 – Site Investigation and Analysis of Soils

Guidelines for Assessing and Managing Petroleum Hydrocarbon Contaminated Sites in New Zealand

Hazardous Activities and Industries List

Methodology for Deriving Standards for Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health

As well as by the links above this incorporated material can be inspected by appointment free of charge from the Ministry for the Environment’s head office at the following address.

Environment House
23 Kate Sheppard Place
Wellington 6011
New Zealand

To make an appointment to inspect the incorporated material, please contact the Ministry for the Environment information centre on:

Email: infocentre@mfe.govt.nz
Phone: (04) 439 7537

Photocopying of incorporated material will not be permitted.

Find out more

If you would like more information on the NESCS please email standards@mfe.govt.nz