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Tuesday, October 13

Public needs reassurance on clean-up of toxic sites

The fact the public is finally getting information about potentially contaminated sites is welcomed by the Green Party, however the liability for who will pay for the clean-up needs to be addressed, Green Party Toxics spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said today.

As a result of a recent decision by the Ombudsman, councils throughout New Zealand are required to make their lists of potentially contaminated sites public from today.

At least one Council, Tasman District, is challenging this requirement. Many people who own land on the potentially contaminated sites are also concerned about how this ruling will affect the value of their property.

"The Green Party has looked at different liability regimes around the world for toxic sites and we believe shared responsibility between polluting industries and the licensing authorities is fair," said Ms Delahunty.

"It is not fair for innocent landowners inheriting sites with serious historic toxicity risks to pay for their clean-up."

Ms Delahunty is currently in the process of drafting a Members’ Bill to amend the Resource Management Act in order to establish a coherent and accessible national register of contaminated sites as well as a liability regime to protect innocent landowners. The Bill will be based on the idea of the polluter paying as well as Local Government and the Crown.

"A clear and fair process to establish liability is overdue and we also need the political will to set aside more funds than currently allocated for the clean-up of toxic sites," said Ms Delahunty.

"In 1999 the National Government was about to amend the Resource Management Act to create an ‘innocent landowner’ defence. A decade later they should help progress this matter with fairness and certainty for all."

To recall, more than 1700 contaminated or at risk sites around Wellington revealed by Greater Wellington regional Council.

The sites include St. James Theater in Courtney Place, California Garden Centre in Miramar, Karori WIldlife Sanctuary and the Herd st. apartments near Waitangi Park.