Testing for contamination

To find out whether your land is actually contaminated or not, you need a Detailed Site Investigation. Any investigation of your property should be carried out by a suitably qualified and experienced practitioner who specialises in contaminated land investigations.

Rules in the Regional Plan say that you or your practitioner must submit any investigation report to Environment Canterbury within two months of completion.

Reports can be sent to contaminated.land@ecan.govt.nz

Key information

What is involved in a detailed site investigation?

A detailed site investigation report should:

  • assess the area, extent and nature of soil contamination at the site
  • evaluate whether soil contaminant concentrations exceed human health standards and guideline values established in the National Environmental Standard and other sources
  • identify and assess potential risks from identified contaminants to public health and the environment.

If a site investigation finds the concentration of hazardous substances is a threat to human health and the environment, you may need to remediate or manage your site. Call us or your local city or district council to find out more.

Who is a suitably qualified and experienced practitioner?

Choosing a suitably qualified contaminated land professional

Your district council carries out planning requirements to ensure that land is safe for human use and occupancy. It pays special attention to activities involving significant soil disturbance, subdivision of land, and change of land use (e.g. industrial to residential). If you do any of these activities, and hazardous activities are known or believed to be associated with your land, you may be required to undertake an environmental investigation. An environmental report will have to be prepared and provided to your council and it is a legal requirement for that report to be certified by a Suitably Qualified and Experienced Practitioner (SQEP).

Why are environmental investigations necessary?

Environmental investigations are generally done to determine the risk posed to human and ecological receptors by hazardous substances in soil, sediment, groundwater and surface water. Environmental investigations are generally required to satisfy regulatory or planning requirements; however, landowners may voluntarily engage an environmental professional to investigate their property at their discretion.

If unsure about whether an environmental investigation is necessary on your land or the type of investigation required, please contact your district or regional council for assistance.

Finding an environmental consultancy

Because of the variability and potential complexity of carrying out a land contamination investigation, a contaminated land consultant should be chosen carefully at the start. Be mindful to check that the environmental consultancy you are considering employs SQEPs to oversee the type of environmental investigation you need, and to certify subsequent reports.

Environmental investigations can be costly and time consuming and if a report is not accepted by the regulatory authority first time, it could cost you additional time and money to remedy later. Unforeseen variations will not be reflected in a consultant's initial quote.

Before formally appointing a consultancy consider the following:

  • Is the consultant based in your geographical area?
  • Does the consultancy have skills and experience relevant to what you need?
  • Does the consultancy have enough public liability and professional indemnity insurance?
  • What health and safety procedures does the consultancy follow?
  • Is the consultancy familiar with local legislation and national best practice guidelines, and the expectations of your district and regional council?
  • Has the consultancy prepared and provided a clear scope of work, cost breakdown, and schedule for your project?
  • Has the consultancy documented consideration for project risks that could adversely alter the project scope, cost and schedule?

To find environmental consultants please search Yellow Pages listings or online. Potential phrasing for online searches could include:

  • "Environmental consultants near me"
  • "Environmental consulting companies Canterbury"
  • "Environmental consultants"

The Resource Management (National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health) Regulations 2011 (the NES) establishes a requirement for preliminary and detailed site investigations (PSIs and DSIs) to be performed under the direction of and certified by a "suitably qualified and experienced practitioner" (SQEP). The NES does not define "SQEP" but general guidance about what is expected of a SQEP is available in the NES User's Guide, specifically, Section 2.1.1.

Note: The SQEP is an individual who may work for an environmental consulting company or be self-employed. Environmental consulting companies are not SQEPs.

What qualifications should a SQEP have?

At minimum they should:

  • Hold a tertiary qualification in one or more of the following disciplines: environmental science, geology, chemistry, physical geography, earth science, soil science, biology, ecology, hydrology, hydrogeology, environmental or chemical engineering or human health risk assessment;
  • Occupy a senior or principal-level role at their consultancy; and
  • Have at least ten years current/recent contaminated land experience.

Certification by a recognised body that evaluates and verifies environmental professionals in capability criteria of training, experience, professional conduct and ethical behaviour can be used to validate a consultant as a SQEP (subscription to a contaminated land industry association alone does not qualify). The Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand (EIANZ) is one such body and administers the Certified Environmental Practitioner Scheme in Australia and New Zealand. An environmental professional recognised as a Certified Environmental Practitioner - Site Contamination (CEnvP SC) can be considered a SQEP for contaminated sites. If you consult the CEnvP directory, ensure the practitioners you consider are under the New Zealand CEnvP category.

Note: Not every person involved in the detailed site investigation and subsequent report preparation must meet all these minimum qualifications. The SQEP who certifies the report would be expected to meet them.

How much does soil testing cost?

Investigation costs vary. They can depend on the size of your site, the current and previous land uses and the hazardous substances that might be present.

You need to ask the specialist practitioner for an estimate of costs. There will be a cost and it can vary. This includes costs for site investigation and sampling, laboratory analysis, and the preparation of a detailed report by a suitably qualified and experienced practitioner.

We recommend seeking and comparing quotes from different practitioners.