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Historical Landfills

Like other councils across New Zealand, Hastings District Council has been combing through the records of former Hastings councils to identify areas in our district that may have been used in the past to dump rubbish.

The project was initiated following the uncovering of a historical landfill on the West Coast in a severe weather event that led to old rubbish spilling into the Fox River. The Associate Minister for the Environment of the time, Eugenie Sage, asked all councils to review their records to identify old dumping areas.

In Hastings, larger historical landfills that are known about, such as Roys Hill, are monitored by Council and the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and recorded on the Ministry for the Environments Hazardous Activities and Industries (HAIL) list.

However, smaller sites, often used for short periods of time and with limited information recorded by the councils of the day, can be more difficult to pinpoint.

In 2019, Council officers commenced a search of the minutes and correspondence of the previous councils, firstly those of the former Havelock North Borough Council. Eight potential sites were discovered, with six confirmed as sites used by the community and council in the late-1950s to mid-1960s as waste dumping sites.

Four of the six sites were under reserve land; in Anderson Park, Awarua Cres, Tauroa Rd Reserve, and Te Mata Rd, near Durham Dr, while two sites were on private land, at Havelock North Primary School and a private address in Arataki Rd.

An initial investigation by specialist engineering and environmental company Pattle Delamore Partners (PDP), advised that the old sites posed little risk to both human health and the environment, given their small size, the type of waste dumped, and their age. Follow-up physical investigations at Anderson Park confirmed the initial findings for that site.

As at December 2020, Council had discussed the matter with the owners of the private properties and assisted them with decisions around further testing if required, informed Hawke’s Bay Regional Council of the findings, advised the community of the investigations, and instigated physical testing of the three further Council-owned sites.

For more information, read the media release here.

FAQs

What are historical/legacy landfills?

They are rubbish dumping areas that councils and communities in the past used to dispose of waste. In this context, the term refers to areas that little is known about, as councils of the day did not keep the sort of records required today.

Why is Council doing this work?

In 2019 central Government asked councils to investigate historical landfills. The instruction came in the wake of an old landfill on the West Coast uncovered during a storm event, which led to rubbish spilling into the Fox River.

How does Hastings District Council find out where they are/why does it take a long time?

With no specific files kept on these dumping sites by councils of the time, Hastings District Council officers are using long-time local residents’ knowledge, historical meeting minutes and correspondence, photos, and geographic data to identify likely sites. They are then further investigated to confirm or discount the sites.

Is the whole district being screened for these sites?

Yes, Council is continuing to review historical documents to identify if there are other sites that need further investigation .

What are you going to do about the sites?

Council has recorded their whereabouts for future reference. Given the low risks, it does not need to take any remedial action unless excavation of an affected area is required. In that case, the project’s health and safety plan would reflect that there is a landfill below ground and note the appropriate actions required to protect both the community and the environment. It will be noted that the sites should be checked following severe weather events.

I think I know of another property that might have been used as a landfill in the past – what should I do?

Contact Council with the address of the site, and your name and contact details (email: customerservice@hdc.govt.nz with ‘Historical landfills’ in the subject line) and we will pass this information to our team investigating historical landfills, and they will get in touch with you.

Havelock North findings (six historical landfills)

What has Council found out about these sites?

Once Council officers had located the sites, specialist engineering and environmental company Pattle Delamore Partners (PDP) was contracted to review the information and prepare a risk report. That report found that the risks to human health were low because of the small size of the sites, the type of rubbish the council of the day allowed to be tipped there, and the length of time since they had been used.

When were these sites used?

Historical meeting minutes and correspondence show that these areas were used by the Havelock North Borough Council for waste disposal in the late-fifties to mid-sixties.

What follow-up has Council done?

While the PDP report found the risks were low, Council decided to do physical testing at one of the sites for additional information. They included taking below-ground soil samples and testing for gas. Those test findings confirmed that the risks were low. The remaining (3) Council-owned sites will undergo physical testing.

What are the health risks?

Pattle Delamore Partners (PDP) was contracted to review the information and prepare a risk report. That report found that the risks to human health were low because of the small size of the sites, the type of rubbish the council of the day allowed to be tipped there, and the length of time since they had been used.

Are there environmental risks?

The environmental risks from these sites were assessed as part of the initial PDP report. Like the risks to human health, because of the small size of the sites, the types of materials disposed of, and the age of the landfill, the report found that risks to the environment were low.

Some of these sites are privately owned; what should people do if they are worried?

Council has provided all the information on these sites to the landowners. The reports that form part of that information include steps that landowners can take if they would like to do further investigations.

How do these sites get managed from now?

Council has recorded their whereabouts for future reference. Given the low risks, it does not need to take any remedial action unless excavation of an affected area is required. In that case, the project’s health and safety plan would reflect that there is a landfill below ground and note the required appropriate actions. It will be noted that the sites should be inspected following severe weather events.

 

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