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This site is about risk assessment (RA) for contaminated sites in New Zealand. Because there is little available guidance for ecological risk assessment, this web site tends to focus more strongly on ecological receptors. However, the web site is equally appropriate for human health risk assessment, and provides specific guidance on important aspects and methods where they differ substantively from ecological methods. 

Risk assessment for human health is largely similar in scope and methodology to ecological risk assessment, although in practice, may be somewhat simpler due to the fact that only one receptor, people, is being considered.

Purpose of this Web Site

This site and its links aim to provide specific information, guidance and resources for undertaking risk assessment at contaminated sites in New Zealand by:

  • providing a general description of risk assessment (RA) and its use on contaminated sites,
  • identifying resources that are useful to the New Zealand investigator,
  • providing specific guidance, in the form of a framework, for undertaking the risk assessment, and
  • providing New Zealand-specific data for copper, arsenic, and chromium, metal contaminants commonly found at timber treatment sites.

The site can provide a general overview of RA for the non-specialist, but can also assist practitioners with guidance and references relevant to specific aspects of RA. A glossary of common terms is provided.

Note: We strongly recommend seeking the advice of a specialist especially when:

  • the contaminated site is complex and/or large,
  • there are a number of possible contaminants or potentially affected ecological values or people,
  • the justification for risk management decisions may be tested (e.g., in court),
  • the experience of the site manager or decision maker is limited, or
  • remedial actions are difficult or expensive.

Which Contaminants?

Initially this website was set up for providing specific information about ecological tolerances for BTEX (chemicals associated with petroleum products) and CCA (chemicals associated with timber treatment). We have also provided detailed information on asbestos, a common hazardous substance in New Zealand, and on cyanide.  At this stage, ecotoxicity tests on BTEX in New Zealand have been difficult to carry out.  For further explanation follow this link

The site now also provides general assistance and information about risk assessment at contaminated sites. This information applies to all contaminants (e.g. boron, lead) as well as environmental stressors e.g. (landslide, dredging) that might have adverse ecological or human health effects.

Philosophy - Site Design and Layout

This site is divided into two "strands":

Introductory risk assessment

This strand is designed to provide introductory information and methodological guidance to assist the following groups of people: 

  • Any assessor/investigator undertaking a Tier 1 risk assessment or site investigation;
  • Regulatory authority staff from district or regional councils, or unitary authorities including environmental health officers, consent and compliance officers, and planners; 
  • Consultants in any field dealing with actual or potential contamination of any media; research institutions, universities or polytechnics; medical officers of health, public health officers;
  • Lenders, valuers, insurers, loss adjusters, developers, purchasers, vendors, real estate agents, surveyors and other parties associated with transactions or developments involving land; 
  • Private landholders and site managers.

Advanced risk assessment

This strand is principally a collection of tools, resources and information for the following groups of people: 

  • Any assessor undertaking Tier 2 or 3 risk assessments; 
  • Regulatory authority, Ministry of Health and other staff auditing or reviewing Tier 2 or 3 risk assessments; 
  • Researchers in universities, crown research institutes and government departments; and 
  • Overseas researchers.

The web site has been designed by Chris Phillips and Linda Lilburne with considerable input by the project team.  Most of the model and document reviews were done by Peter Cochrane, and Tony Cussins. Kathryn O'Halloran and Chris Hickey provided toxicological input.

A fictitious example of XYZ Enterprises is used throughout this web site to provide examples of what is required at various stages in the RA process.  

Ggraphical icons are used to assist the user to locate certain items of interest.       


This link takes you to an example to demonstrate what is required at this level in the ERA. Examples

NZ data


Various stage in framework

Complete listing of information sources including books, reports, databases, websites and models. 

A sumary table of the key resources that a New Zealand assessor would find useful at each stage of the RA framework is provided - Key Resources at a Glance.

New Zealand ecological toxicity test data are available for a number of species from both terrestrial and freshwater aquatic ecosystems.

Table of Contents

A listing of all the pages in this web site (site map) can be obtained from the Table of Contents.


A description of technical terms, phrases and abbreviations used in the text is in the Glossary


This web site is kindly hosted by Landcare Research, a New Zealand Crown Research Institute.

Christine Bezar kindly edited the pages for this site.

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Page last updated: 01 May 2007

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