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City halts soil tags on LIMs

22 December 2004

City halts soil tags on LIMs pending further studies

Auckland City has agreed with the advice of the Crown Law Office and will not tag Land Information Memoranda (LIMs) on properties which may be on land formerly used for horticultural purposes, Mayor Dick Hubbard has announced.

A Crown Law Office opinion on the issue was requested on behalf of Auckland City by the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) and made available to the council and other local authorities in the region this week.

The mayor said that the City previously believed it had no option but to put the information on LIMs.

The Crown Law Office agreed that Auckland City had acted lawfully by using its discretion to put the information on LIMs, but pointed out other ways it could be made public.

“While we will stop tagging LIMs for the time being, there are some issues to be resolved,” said Mr Hubbard.

“We are still in discussions with the Auckland Regional Council (ARC) and the MfE on a soil testing programme and guidelines of contamination levels as they may affect health. If, once these issues are resolved, unacceptable levels of contamination are confirmed, the information will be put on the LIMs of affected properties,” he said.

“We are grateful for the assistance of the Minister, the Hon. Marian Hobbs, in securing the opinion from the Crown Law Office and for the offer of assistance in dealing with contamination issues.”

So far only 27 LIMs have been tagged with the information and this will be removed. Letters to the owners of nearly 5,000 properties believed to be on land formerly used for horticultural purposes will be sent in the New Year advising them of Auckland City’s decision.

Mr Hubbard said at the outset the council believed it had a legal responsibility to tell people it was aware of information contained in a report prepared by the Auckland Regional Council and the Auckland District Health Board (ADHB).

The Crown Law Office has advised Auckland City that there are other ways of making this information available to the public.

These include the District Plan, release of official information under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA) and by general publication which could include the council’s website, for instance.

In the meantime, the information on sites potentially affected by former horticultural land use would remain on the council’s website.

The Crown Law Office found that under section 44A(3) of LGOIMA the council could use its discretion in placing the information on LIMs.

Mr Hubbard said that while the key issue in the public’s mind has been settled for the time being, the longer term issues of possible contamination of former horticultural lands still had to be resolved.

“All our efforts are aimed at increasing the amount of certainty we can give owners and residents and we will continue to work closely with the ARC and MfE on their further studies to progress this.”

The background: in 2001, the ARC and ADHB undertook a research project to assess the extent of residual contamination in soils from past horticultural activity in the Auckland region. The study involved sampling 43 horticultural and agricultural sites in the region. Only one site within Auckland City’s boundaries was tested.

the study concluded that historic horticultural activity resulted in comparatively elevated levels of contaminants on about 4 per cent of the region-wide sites. The remainder of the sites showed acceptable levels.

Auckland City then undertook a desktop study to identify which properties on the isthmus may have been used in the past for horticultural purposes. Old aerial photographs from the 1940s and 1950s were studied and overlaid with maps of present day development. This study found that properties of 4,872 residential owners may possibly be on land previously used for horticulture.

the council wrote to these owners advising them that the existence of the ARC/ADHB report would be flagged on LIMs of potentially affected properties.

ENDS

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