Government grants $6.6 million to clean up old landfill sites

The Government has granted $6.6 million to clean up four historic New Zealand landfill and dump sites vulnerable to extreme weather events and coastal erosion.

At the BlueGreens Forum in Paihia today Environment Minister Penny Simmonds said that the Contaminated Sites Remediation Fund grants will go towards fixing former landfills and dump sites in Tairāwhiti, Southland, Canterbury and Nelson.  

“These sites are in low-lying coastal areas and near river margins, leaving them at risk of being compromised by storm surges, rainfall events, high river levels and flooding.

“This funding will address the risk of the sites being breached by a natural event, exposing waste material and contaminating the surrounding land and waterways.”  

Penny Simmonds said historic landfills can become a threat to communities and the environment through the effects of climate change and extreme weather events.

“The Government supports local government to deal with the legacy of land contaminated by past practices, directing funds each year to sites considered regional priorities,” Penny Simmonds said.

“This funding will help restore these contaminated sites so they no longer pose a risk to communities and the environment.”  

Penny Simmonds said the Ministry for the Environment is working with regional councils to assess historic landfills.  

The Ministry for the Environment provided funding to councils to develop a tool to evaluate climate change risks for landfills and contaminated sites in 2019.  

“The Ministry is now working with regional councils to refine the tool and use it to evaluate landfills that have not yet been assessed.  

“These assessments will help councils make decisions on how to manage the risks associated with vulnerable landfills and contaminated sites, such as reducing the level of contamination, better containing the sites, or removing the contents of landfills.”

Notes to editors –

More information on the Contaminated Sites Remediation Fund is on the Ministry for the Environment’s website.

The projects are:

Tokomaru Bay landfill

Gisborne District Council is receiving $4.98 million to develop a remediation plan and carry out remediation works at the former Tokomaru Bay landfill, which collected municipal and light industrial waste from 1967 to the late 1980s.

The retired landfill area is susceptible to flooding from the Mangahauini River, exposing and washing out to sea waste and contaminated material. Recent severe weather, including Cyclone Gabrielle, have shown the risk posed by heavy rainfall events and high river levels.  

Bluecliffs landfill

The Bluecliffs landfill site is situated in a former gravel pit located within Te Waewae Bay, west of the Waiau River mouth. Waste material was dumped at the site from the 1970s through to 1980s, and fly tipping took place up to 2000.  

Coastal tides and Waiau River mouth flooding have eroded parts of the site and surrounding areas.  

Environment Southland is partnering with Southland District Council to plan and undertake remediation of the site. They have been granted $1.35 million towards this planning and the remediation works.  

St Andrews Beach landfill  

The St Andrews Beach landfill project will focus on developing a remediation plan led by Environment Canterbury in consultation with Waimate District Council and Te Rūnanga o Waihao. They have been granted $135,000 towards this planning project.  

The landfill is located between Pareora and Saint Andrews and operated in the 1960s. It contains industrial, demolition and household waste, including car parts and textiles. 

Tāhunanui Beach

Nelson City Council is leading a remediation project after sawdust contaminated with arsenic and other chemicals was exposed by erosion in a carpark at Tāhunanui Beach in June 2023. The council has been granted $134,000 towards the planning of this project.  

In the 1960s, sawdust material from a local timber mill was used in this area as fill for the raised carpark.  

Over time, erosion left this material exposed. The council has closed off and contained the contaminated area until it can be remediated.