Interim review of the National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health

This page provides information on the completed interim review of the National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health.

Scope of the interim review

During 2014 and 2015 the Ministry for the Environment conducted an interim review of the:

The purpose of the review was to assist our understanding of how the NESCS has been working since coming into effect in 2012.

The interim review focused on:

  • the activities for which resource consent is required:
    • soil disturbance threshold
    • removal of soil
    • subdivision
    • change in land use
  • whether contaminated sites are being remediated or contaminants are being managed on site
  • the Hazardous Activities and Industries List (HAIL). 

Findings of the interim review

The interim review determined that the NESCS has decreased the likelihood that sites will be developed and then later found to pose an unacceptable risk to human health. Concern that sites were being missed was a major driver for developing the NESCS, and as such the NESCS is largely achieving its original objectives.

However, the interim review identified several areas where implementation of the NESCS framework is creating inefficiencies, resulting in low-risk sites and activities being required to comply with the NESCS.

Public consultation

Public consultation on proposed NESCS amendments was held from September to October 2016.

Find out more about the consultation

Outcomes of the interim review

Approval of the NESCS amendments

Following the consultation, Cabinet agreed in May 2017 to the policy decision to amend the NESCS and to issue drafting instructions to Parliamentary Counsel Office. In August 2017 an exposure draft of the amended NESCS was tested with a technical working group. The testing showed that more policy work needs to be done for the proposed amendments.

The NESCS amendments are being addressed through guidance

After the election in 2017, we refocused our priorities to more closely align with the new government’s priorities which include climate change, freshwater quality and urban development. Current work on the NESCS is focusing on improving guidance on contaminated land management and implementation, including addressing emerging soil contaminants such as PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances). This work includes HAIL guidance and completion of the contaminated land management guidelines No. 1 and No. 5. These guidance documents will include references to PFAS.