National Environmental Standard for Assessing Soil Contamination

Updated: Aug 12, 2018


If you want to subdivide or change the use of a piece of land (for example build a house on land that was previously used, or in close proximity, to farm land or orchard), you need to know about the “National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health”.

An environmental standard (under the Resource Management Act 1991) came into force on 1 January 2012. This standard means that if your land is, or has been, used for a hazardous activity or industry and you want to subdivide or change the use of the land, or disturb the soil, or remove or replace a fuel storage system, you will need to comply with the National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health (NES).

Your Council is responsible for checking compliance with the standard. Failing to comply with the NES may result in the council taking enforcement action against you. Five activities are controlled by the regulations in the NES if they are undertaken on specified ‘at-risk’ land. Depending on the level of exposure people may have to any contaminants present, the activity may be allowed as a permitted activity, or will require a resource consent. To find out if the regulations apply to you, first check if your land is specified, then check if the activity you want to do is one of the five activities.


The N.E.S. regulations apply if your intended subdivision, or proposed construction activity, changes the use of the land and if the land has previously been used, or is in close proximity to, one of the 53 specified hazardous activities or industries. (e.g. changing land from farming to housing, or from an orchard to workshop). The 53 hazards specified under the act are referred to as HAIL (Hazardous Activates and Industries List) in the act with the most common items being orchards, sheep dips, super phosphate stores, and old house locations which contaminate soil with flakes of lead paint. To check the HAIL list, please visit

During the consenting process for subdivision or building, the Council may request a “Preliminary Site Investigation” (PSI) be undertaken by a “suitably qualified professional”. Previously this could be undertaken by anyone but after challenges in court, only “suitably qualified professionals” may undertake this work now.

Your P.S.I. will indicate if your land has been subject to any of the 53 specified hazards and if further investigation is required this further investigation is referred to as a “detailed site investigation”. Federation Homes will help guide you through the process of gaining your P.S.I. and are happy to submit this to council on your behalf.


If the N.E.S. regulations apply to your land, these can normally be undertaken inside your subdivision or building consents. A separate consent is not required providing certain requirements are met. As a guide only, the following examples are the types of thing that need to be complied with:

  • demonstrating to your council that it is highly unlikely that there will be a risk to human health given the intended subdivision or proposed new use (note soil samples are not necessarily required for this). This process is called the P.S.I. report.

  • ensuring earthworks do not expose people to contaminated soil and that all contaminated soil is taken to an approved facility when the activity involves disturbing soil (earthworks)

  • ensuring works associated with the removal or replacing of an underground fuel storage system have been done in accordance with the industry guideline.

If you cannot meet the requirements of a permitted activity you will need to apply for a resource consent. Your application must include a report of the results of a “detailed site investigation”, including the results of soil sampling.


If your site is found to be contaminated in your Detailed Investigation Report, there are a number of ways to manage this contamination so your project can continue. Your “suitably qualified professional” will list these in your report, but as an example, these remedial options are commonly listed as:

  • Implementing a management plan and gaining separate resource consent for the contaminated soil to remain on your site. This method is most commonly only used for steep banks or similar areas inaccessible to human habitation.

  • Removing the soil and disposing of it in a certified disposal location. This process can cost upwards of $200/m 3 .


For more detailed information:

1) Contact your Federation Homes representative, we have qualified and experienced staff available to help answer your questions and / or

2) Visit your local council and / or

3) Visit the ministries website:


Contact Federation Homes, we’re here to help…

Phone: 07 552 4002


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