Working to address health hazards from contaminated land

Contaminated land is defined by the Ministry for the Environment as sites at which hazardous substances occur at concentrations above background levels and where assessment indicates it poses, or is likely to pose, an immediate or long-term risk to human health or the environment.

Land can become contaminated through the manufacture, use, storage and disposal of hazardous substances and while contamination is usually associated with industrial activities, the use of hazardous substances in agriculture can also cause contamination, as can residential activities and buildings.

People can become exposed to contaminants in soil through:

  • contact with the soil
  • soil ingestion
  • eating produce grown on contaminated land and
  • drinking contaminated ground or surface water
  • exposure by inhalation if a contaminant is volatile or dust is present.

The health risk associated with contaminated soil will depend on the type of hazardous substance, the exposure route and the length of time a person is exposed.

Community and Public Health can provide advice to anyone who believes that they may have been exposed to contaminated soil.

The main pathways by which contaminants in soil can affect human health. Source: Ministry for the Environment.

Read a description of the infographic showing the main pathways by which contaminants in soil can affect human health.

Supporting councils to meet their responsibilities for contaminated land

Community and Public Health works collaboratively with local councils and other agencies to ensure the public health effects of contaminated land are identified and risk assessed, so that the hazards can be isolated, decreased or remedied.

Community and Public Health also provides health information and advice on specific land contaminants, including lead (lead based paint) and asbestos (asbestos cement sheeting and other asbestos building products) and other hazardous substances.

Community and Public Health provides health support to regional and local councils relating to issues under the National Environmental Standard (NES) for soil contaminants.

The National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health was reviewed in 2016 by the Minstry for the Environment. This review examined different methods for reducing the health risk from contaminated soil, including:

  • removal of contaminated soil (remediation); and
  • covering contaminated land with a watertight surface (management) where remediation is not feasible.



Contact your local office for further information:

Ph: +64 3 364 1777

Ph: +64 3 687 2600

Ph: +64 3 768 1160

The Listed Land Use Register: What it means for your health

Your property is on the Listed Land Use Register (LLUR) if it has been a site where certain industrial activities took place or chemicals were used, stored or disposed of in the past.

Typical sites include former orchards and market gardens, landfills, timber treatment and other industrial sites identified by the Hazardous Activities and Industries List (HAIL).

This means it is possible that chemicals or hazardous substances are still present in your soil. Being on the Register does not mean your property is contaminated. It may be that the amount of chemicals or substances used was insignificant or have been removed, or that only a small part of your section was used.

Page last updated: 18/08/2023

Copyright © 2023, Community & Public Health,