Contaminated Land

The past use and storage of hazardous substances have left a legacy of soil contamination in New Zealand.

This contamination has been largely caused by historic practices in which chemicals were manufactured, used, stored and disposed of in ways that are considered unacceptable by today’s standards. Contaminated sites are often associated with industrial activities, but commercial, agricultural and residential land uses or activities can also result in contamination.

Contaminants in the soil can cause adverse effects on both human health and the environment through both short-term and long-term exposure. The value of land and its potential for rural, residential, or recreational uses can also be reduced. The migration of contaminants may result in contamination of other land, sediment, air, groundwater or surface water, both at the source of contamination and at locations remote from the source.

It is, therefore, necessary to identify, prioritise, investigate, and remediate or manage any land in Otago where such adverse effects occur.

Identification of Contaminated Land

The Otago Regional Council maintains a database of properties where information is held regarding current or past land-uses that have the potential to contaminated land. Land-uses that have the potential to contaminate land are outlined in the Ministry for the Environment’s Hazardous Activities and Industries List (HAIL).  

Hazardous substances were not always used or stored on all sites occupied by each activity or industry. However, such activities and industries are more likely to use or store hazardous substances and therefore there is a greater probability of site contamination occurring.

Where an investigation has been completed, results have been compared to relevant soil guideline values.


If you would like to make an enquiry regarding a specific property or piece of land, please email the address and legal description to

The database is continually under development, and should not be regarded as a complete record of all properties in Otago. The absence of available information does not necessarily mean that the property is uncontaminated; rather no information exists on the database. You may also wish to examine the property file at the relevant City or District Council to check if there is any evidence that activities occurring on the HAIL have taken place.


Chapter 5 of the Regional Plan: Waste contains the regional rules and policies for contaminated sites.  A resource consent from the Otago Regional Council is required for the disturbance of a contaminated site, or any discharges from a contaminated site.

National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants In Soil to Protect Human Health

City and District Councils also have functions with respect to contaminated land.  They are a responsible for implementing the National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health.

The NES creates a nationally consistent set of planning controls around the disturbance, subdivision, and land use change of potentially contaminated land. For more information see the Ministry for the Environment’s website or contact your City or District Council planning team.

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