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Aerial images online for all to see

October 14, 2005

Aerial images online for all to see

The North Shore City Council has published old aerial photographs of the city on its website www.northshorecity.govt.nz to allow residents and business owners to see whether their land was used for horticulture before 1975.

The council recently completed the lengthy task of trawling through archive photos and files to identify those commercial market gardens, orchards and glasshouses which had spread north after the Auckland Harbour Bridge opened.

North Shore City's senior environmental policy advisor, Phill Reid, is leading the council's project team.

"The time-consuming mapping and cross-checking exercise has been critical to ensuring the reliability of the information," he says.

The relationship of historical horticultural activities to potential soil contamination was first raised through an Auckland Regional Council (ARC) and Auckland District Health Board report in 2001.

This study aimed to identify whether regular activities on land used for horticulture left a build-up of different chemicals within the soil.

The country's fourth largest local authority has been working closely with fellow councils, environmental agencies and public health authorities on the complex subject, which draws comment on everything from pesticides to property values.

"We're using currently agreed regional guideline levels as the basis for our council's approach," Mr Reid says.

"We understand that the Ministry for the Environment is continuing to research the introduction of national guideline levels for contaminants. Should guideline levels change then our approach may also change."

He says the Local Government and Official Information Act provides for councils to tag a Land Information Memorandum (LIM) where there is known information that is considered relevant to the landowner.

"Given that information held on historical horticultural activities is not specific enough to be shown on selected LIMs, every LIM we now produce will contain a generic statement pointing out previous activities and general land-based hazards.

"Of more specific interest, however, our website now contains historical aerial photos that may indicate whether a horticultural activity once occupied a site.

"In order to determine whether chemical residues are actually present, the soil on any particular property would need to be tested.

"We won't be telling private property owners to carry out soil testing unless there is further building or development proposed for the site. In these situations we may require, as part of the consent application, that a soil test be carried out in accordance with the ARC's procedures.

"Applicants must then address any adverse effects identified, and this could require removing any contaminated soil."

Phill Reid says his council will take its own advice and test the soil of those properties, mostly parks, it has identified as having a horticultural history.

"We're working with the ARC to develop a methodology before we test all council-owned properties, and we'll keep the public posted on that programme," Mr Reid says.


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