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Executive Summary

This is the first of a series of documents on contaminated land management, published by the Ministry for the Environment under the auspices of the Regional Waste Officers' Forum. The guidelines are adapted from Australian guidelines as a best practice guide for use by regional councils, territorial and unitary authorities, and environmental consultants. They cover reporting practice only, and do not show how to conduct investigations, to make assessments, or to suggest remediation.

How this document can be used

The purpose of this document is to ensure consistency of reporting on the investigation, assessment and remediation of contaminated sites in New Zealand. It will assist council and local authority staff, site auditors, members of the public, and other interested parties to evaluate the effects on the environment such contaminated sites may cause.

Five reporting stages are described:

  • preliminary site investigation report
  • detailed site investigation report
  • site remedial action plan
  • site validation report
  • ongoing monitoring and management plan.

This document presents a detailed checklist covering these five reporting stages. The checklist will help to achieve a uniform approach to reporting on contaminated sites and ensure that local authorities receive the information they need to address the relevant environmental issues. Report stages may be presented separately, as is often the case with complex sites, or they can be combined. In any case, each report must contain all the necessary information to enable a full review.

Consultants' reports normally address these stages. Reports may be prepared for sale or purchase agreements, or for permit applications, as well as for documenting contamination and describing clean-up procedures.

The main checklist is not appropriate for reports prepared following the removal of petroleum underground storage tanks, and for this reason a separate checklist on this topic is given.

An extended list of references is provided, showing information available from selected sources in New Zealand, Australia and the United States.

Responsibilities of users of these guidelines

Compliance with these guidelines does not in any way authorise any person, including consultants, to access land for the purpose of undertaking investigations other than on land owned or leased by them, without the express permission of the owner or lessee of the land or their rightfully appointed agents.


Compliance with these guidelines does not in any way release any person, including consultants, from additional requirements (including permits required by various legislation) that may be imposed by local authorities. Where documentation required for such additional requirements satisfies part or all of these guidelines, this should be included in reporting and clearly identified as doing so.


Consultants (and their clients) should be aware of the duty to avoid, remedy or mitigate adverse effects on the environment as specified in s.17 of the Resource Management Act 1991.

Changes from the 2001 version

An earlier version of this document was produced in 2001. At that time the draft of the guidelines was circulated to local government, environmental consultants and key industries, and the final document was revised on the basis of the comments received.


The document was first updated in November 2003 with changes to the following sections:

  • 2.1 - Reference has been made to the risk-screening system, and information should be provided in a preliminary site investigation report to allow a risk screening to be undertaken on a site.
  • 2.5 - The need for annual reporting on site management plans has been highlighted. Management plans are becoming more common as a way of reducing risk by controlling behaviour on a site. However, to have confidence that the risk continues to be managed, the implementation and effectiveness of any plan needs to be reported on.

Further updates have been made in the current edition of these guidelines (October 2011) to the following:

  • website URLs
  • references to other documents
  • references to the Resource Management (National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health) Regulations (to take effect on 1 January 2012).

Various minor changes have also been made to the text and tables to make them consistent with other contaminated land management guideline documents.

he guidelines are available on http://www.mfe.govt.nz and on the Quality Planning website.