Soil contamination of the land earmarked for state housing development in Northland will not stop Kāinga Ora from starting work that has already been delayed due to weather and Covid.
The level of arsenic, lead and zinc found in the green space on Puriri Park Rd in Whangārei exceeded the level permitted under the Resource Management (National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health) Regulations 2011.
Kāinga Ora plans to build 15 one-bedroom duplexes, four two-bedroom duplexes, one three-bedroom standalone house, six three-bedroom duplexes, eight four-bedroom duplexes and three five-bedroom standalone homes.
Reports on potentially contaminated sites confirmed that a search of council records was undertaken for the site and there was no indication of current or previous activities that are included in the Hazardous Activities and Industries List (HAIL) issued by the Ministry of Environment.
Accordingly, no resource consents were applied for under NES contaminated land as part of the original applications for the 37 residential unit development.
The contamination was discovered when Kāinga Ora undertook soil investigations as part of the initial construction work, before a detailed site investigation was carried out by Geosciences Limited.
Kāinga Ora then applied for and obtained a resource consent from the Whangārei District Council early this year for decontamination of soil as part of the earthworks.
The resource consent decision was released under the Official Information Act after a request was filed by Whangārei MP Dr Shane Reti.
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Kāinga Ora's application to undertake remediation earthworks of contaminated land was not publicly notified as it was classified as a restricted discretionary activity— something state housing development opponents the Puriri Park and Maunu Residents Society is unhappy about.
"Anyone with a conscience would like to alert people there's toxic risk in there," society chairman Trevor Reader said.
But Kāinga Ora spokesman Iain Butler said soil contamination from historic activity on building sites was common, and was anticipated as part of this development, which was why soil testing was carried out in 2019.
The sources of contamination were usually related to use of chemicals and building materials such as pesticides, lead paint and asbestos, which were no longer considered safe.
"There is no real use in investigating the cause of the contamination as it likely happened decades ago.
"Work will not be delayed, as the decontamination of soil was factored into the programme of earthworks, which we signalled to residents in letters earlier this year, and again last week," he said.