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Govt soil testing rules deny help to thousands

Government soil testing rules deny help to thousands of property owners

The Government’s current rules to fund testing for contamination rule out help for thousands of private property owners nationwide.

Auckland City Councillor Vern Walsh says the Ministry for the Environment’s (MfE’s) fund to pay for testing soils, possibly contaminated by past horticultural use, can only be used if

The properties are first put through a “high risk assessment”, sorting out whether they used to contain sheds for pesticides, for instance, and Even then the fund would contribute only 40 to 60 per cent of the cost

Mr Walsh, an Avondale-Roskill ward councillor who chaired a public meeting on the soils issue last night for the city, said today tens of thousands of properties nationwide were potentially on former horticultural sites.

So far nearly 5000 had been identified within Auckland City boundaries, 3000 in Waitakere, others in Hamilton and Tasman district. Thousands of school pupils and state house tenants were on former horticultural sites.

“The government has created this situation – by insisting local authorities identify areas formerly used for potentially contaminating activities like horticulture.

“Now local authorities nation wide are faced with the farce of spending millions doing more work to identify so-called high risk areas. It’s a nonsense to suggest 80 local authorities probe back through old photographs to try and find orchard sheds.

“What we need is a straight forward response – to get current property owners off the government’s hooked: The Government should pay for an agreed sampling programme to test soils on private properties. It’s awash with cash. It can’t ignore the real concern people have that they’re caught between a rock and a hard place – councils who have to identify past land use on LIMs, and the damage that might do to their property values. The Government needs to act urgently and sensibly on this issue.”

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