Certificates of Title
Certificates of Title (CT) are available
from Land Information New Zealand
The CT may give some insight into the history of the site. In
theory, the CT should show you all the owners of the site and
mortgagors from the time the site was first surveyed or subdivided. They also often
provide the occupations of the owners, which can be helpful when the
company name is not indicative of their business activities.
provide the exact dates of changes of ownership and therefore can be
helpful in establishing the history of contamination or discharges, the
legal description, and the size and orientation of the property.
Historically, council building consents and records covered a wide range of activities.
Council inspectors were usually the primary source of information
and advice to people undertaking construction works on a site. The
consents or permits issued and much other useful information is often stored
in the property file for a site, which is held in the local district or
city council offices, or at their appropriate service centres.
While a consent or permit itself may hold little relevant information, file
notes or drawings accompanying the consent, may shed some
light on the possible date that a particular process was initiated at
the site or details of that process. However, although a search through
a property file often yields much of the required information, it can be
time-consuming and is not recommended as an initial screening process
for site identification. Much of the information present in
property files may require verification.
Trade waste permits
The application for a trade waste permit from a site is often a good
indication that a process involving chemicals was
undertaken at the site. The trade waste permit will usually provide some
detail on the types of chemicals and the amounts being discharged to the
sewer. However, it is important to note that this will only apply
to sites that are able to connect to the sewer, and sites that discharge to the environment or
that are not connected to a council-operated reticulated sewerage system are not included.
Regional councils hold considerable information in consent files
relating to discharges for which consent applications have been
received. Council databases are often organised in such a way that a
search can be undertaken to find information about a particular category
of discharge or industry. This is a useful way of screening for
Consent files usually hold the consent application, any assessments
of environment effects (AEE) carried out, requests for further information and
responses received, submitter information (where the consent was
notified), the Investigating Officer’s report and any reports
commissioned by the applicant or council. There may also be information
regarding historic consents, although these should not be viewed as a
comprehensive record of discharges from any site without verification.
Council lists of
Both district and regional
councils are developing databases on contaminated or potentially
contaminated sites in their areas.
councils may record this information through the LIM/PIM system but may
also hold information about land in which they have a direct interest.
These may include council-owned land such as council depots or
landfills, or land that council exercises some measure of control over
through land-use consents or permits for noxious or offensive activities.
Regional councils may have information about a wider range of sites,
particularly with regord to any discharges from the site. Some
councils are providing safe storage
and disposal of unwanted chemicals, and records of the origins of these
chemicals may identify potential sites.
Some councils may have logs of spills or emergency events. As such
they can provide a valuable source of data on potential sites of concern
provided they are viewed only as a component of the whole data set
available for each site.
Aerial photos can be useful in establishing the existence and
locations of certain activities on a site, and dates before or after
which an activity was or was not occurring at the site. For instance an
aerial photo flown in 1945 may indicate that the site was still in
pasture, in 1959 there was a sawmill at the site but with no sign of
treatment operations, and in 1973 buildings had been constructed
including a boiler stack and timber treatment was likely to have been
While aerial photos provide very good information about site
coverage (%buildings, %exposed soil, etc.), they will only provide
indicative evidence of important dates (e.g. initiation of timber
treatment activities) and historical site usage. However, when used in
conjunction with other sources of information, they can provide a useful
tool for confirming information held in property files.
and Community Knowledge
Most councils have long serving staff that have a
detailed and accurate recollection of the location and types of land
uses within their areas. This type of information can be obtained
informally, but it is often better to attempt to structure this type of
information-gathering to obtain critical details and to allow later
verification. Likewise longstanding members of the
community may remember the location of old sites such as sheep/cattle
dips, landfills, timber treatment sites, abattoirs, etc.
Council staff and community members may be interviewed individually
if it is understood that they are a repository of knowledge of this
kind. However, where it is possible or evident there are significant
gaps in knowledge, it may be prudent to consider undertaking a community-wide mail survey or media request for information relating to potential
sites for which little is known.