Contaminated soil standard to be fine-tuned

  • Nick Smith
Environment

The Government is consulting on changes to the National Environmental Standard on Contaminated Soils (NESCS) to make it more workable and to remove unnecessary costs for land development, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

“We do need a system for identifying sites that have had previous uses that may pose a health risk but we also need to ensure we are not adding disproportionate costs and delays on new developments, such as housing.”

The NESCS provides rules on how to manage land previously used as horticultural land, livestock dips, old gas works or other chemical uses. It provides a nationally consistent approach to assessment and remediation, rather than each council having its own rules.

“The national standard is important as there are some sites that could pose a health risk. The problem we are addressing is that the costs of assessment and remediation have been disproportionate to the risk. This has been a particular problem for housing developments on city fringes which have previously been used as orchards, and where the risks are low.”

The proposed amendments include:

  • Requiring a risk-based assessment when deciding whether the NESCS applies to a site
  • Removing resource consent requirements for low-risk activities
  • Providing options for site specific management appropriate for the risk.

“These changes are estimated to save $60 million to the housing development sector over the next 20 years. They are one of dozens of measures we need to take to improve the supply and affordability of housing,” Dr Smith says.

The consultation closes on 14 October 2016, with the aim of the amendments being in place by mid-2017. For more information visit http://www.mfe.govt.nz/nescs/proposed-amendments