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1 Introduction

1.1 Purpose

This paper is intended as a basis for discussion on how to achieve a comprehensive policy framework for managing contaminated land. It draws together all the policy measures that make up New Zealand’s existing contaminated land policy framework, which include a combination of legislation, regulations, strategies, funds and guidelines. The existing framework is assessed to identify gaps, and then possible solutions - including national environmental standards and best practice guidance - are identified to address the gaps. Suggested priorities are assigned to these solutions to help establish a Ministry work programme that contributes to achieving a comprehensive policy framework.

Discussions between the Ministry and its key contaminated land stakeholders on the solutions identified and their respective priorities will help to inform and confirm the Ministry’s contaminated work programme. To stimulate discussion, the paper includes a number of questions on points we are seeking your specific feedback on.

1.2 Background

In 1992 the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) published the Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for the Assessment and Management of Contaminated Sites. These guidelines were the cornerstone policy document for contaminated land in both countries, and the concepts were widely adopted.

In 2001 ANZECC was disestablished and replaced by the Environment Protection and Heritage Council, of which New Zealand is a member, and the National Environment Protection Council (NEPC) [The NEPC, established in 1995, is an Australian statutory body, of which New Zealand is not a member.]. The NEPC was given the responsibility of developing a new national policy document for managing contaminated land in Australia. The National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure (NEPM) was completed in 1999. Although the NEPM is the main policy framework document in Australia, it has not been adopted in New Zealand.

The current New Zealand policy framework for contaminated land is based on a mix of existing measures that includes laws and regulations, guidelines and funding arrangements. These measures provide protection against any new contaminated sites being created, and go some way towards managing the historical legacy of contaminated land.

The Ministry for the Environment

As the Government’s key advisor on the New Zealand environment, the role of the Ministry for the Environment is to provide leadership on contaminated land issues across both central and local government, while day-to-day environmental management is largely the responsibility of regional councils and territorial authorities. The Ministry is responsible for administering the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA), which is the core piece of legislation relating to contaminated land, and works in partnership with key sectors, organisations and communities to improve our environment.

Although a formal statement of goals and objectives is not proposed for contaminated land in this paper, the Ministry work programme has been informally guided by the outcomes summarised in Figure 1 and described below.

  • At the highest level the programme contributes to having the environment protected from the effects of contaminated land.
  • Our use of land is maximised by having fit-for-purpose land - land that is used appropriately, with use restricted if the land is contaminated. This outcome is consistent with our effects-based legislation and risk-based approach to contaminated land management.
  • Fit-for-purpose land is achieved by maintaining good quality land (avoiding land contamination), and by ensuring contaminated land is managed/remediated to the greatest extent practicable.

All of these outcomes are reflected in the Ministry’s past and current contaminated land work programme. It is likely these outcomes will continue to guide any future Ministry work programme.

Figure 1: Hierarchy of contaminated land outcomes