Resident angry after ‘heavy-handed’ ECan flags subdivision as potentially contaminated

Residents of a North Canterbury subdivision have been told their land might be contaminated, despite test results indicating it is clear.

The Oaks in Rangiora resident Ross Williamson received a letter from Environment Canterbury (ECan) last week.

The letter said ECan had identified the subdivision, which was on land that used to be a forestry nursery, might have been used for “persistent pesticide bulk storage or use” and would be added to the publicly available Listed Land Use Register (LLUR).

“That conclusion was from a desktop study, so no-one came out and tested soil,” Williamson said.

Before the land was subdivided, the developer had it tested for contaminants by Agricultural Consulting Services.

The testing report showed the presence of the pesticide DDT was “low”, as were heavy metals. A multi-residues test showed “no detectable levels”.

“Having sampled the property to the sampling protocols I see no reason why this property should not be suitable for subdivision,” the letter from agricultural consultant Gerard Rushton said.

Williamson said as many as 176 properties were affected and he did not believe ECan had investigated enough before adding them to the LLUR.

“It’s very heavy-handed and disgusting. They shouldn’t be labelling it.”

He was worried property values could be affected.

ECan contaminated sites team leader Davina McNickel​ said the organisation sent a survey to 466 landowners before notifying the LLUR additions.

“The survey asked questions regarding pesticide use and was targeted at subdivisions where horticultural land use appeared to have occurred after subdivision to lifestyle blocks.

“It was not expected that residents of subdivided older horticultural areas, as is the case of The Oaks, would have information regarding the former land use.”

She said ECan was not aware of soil testing having been completed at The Oaks.

“Several reports were obtained for other subdivisions in Waimakariri and that information was used when informing land owners of the LLUR status of their land.”

McNickel said all reasonable efforts were made to obtain information on sites during the district-wide identification programme, including using historical aerial photography from the 1940s to now, the pesticide survey and reviewing subdivision files at the Waimakariri District Council.

Registration of a property on the LLUR did not mean that the site was contaminated, only that the land had been used for certain things.

Waimakariri District Council communications manager Matt McIlraith said the council was aware of the LLUR process and was working with ECan and the community “to resolve issues”.

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