Water, waste and contamination

Our team has an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the issues our clients face when dealing with New Zealand’s water, waste and contamination.

  • Summary
  • Work highlights
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​​​​​​We advise a variety of clients on water and wastewater matters, ranging from regulatory issues to infrastructure projects.  We act for the Crown, regional and district councils, as well as high use water clients such as water and wastewater companies, water bottling companies, hydro-generation companies, geothermal companies, wine industry clients, and indigenous groups (iwi and hapu) with interests in protecting their local waterways.

Freshwater management in New Zealand is the subject of ongoing reform. We assist our clients with strategic thinking on future opportunities and mechanisms for water allocation, water and nutrient trading, and managing within limits. Our team has advised a number of clients on reform and policy issues, including various stakeholders in the Land and Water Forum.

We have significant experience advising on water storage and irrigation projects, and wastewater systems, including project development, delivery, and managing environmental and resource management factors. We advise on resource consents and policy matters relating to the commercial, industrial, urban development, mining, and public infrastructure sectors. We regularly provide advice on associated trade waste matters.

Resource management experts in our Infrastructure and Projects team have a proven track record of gaining consents for major projects. They are able to call on a wide range of expertise from across the firm to advise on the complex issues surrounding water and waste infrastructure delivery as well as day-to-day commercial operations of water and waste management companies and organisations. Our multidisciplinary approach includes advising on resource management, construction, land access issues, infrastructure project financing, tax, and regulatory issues.

The team provides advice on many of New Zealand’s most significant and complex contaminated sites. The issues relating to contamination are diverse and the management of potentially contaminated sites requires consideration of a wide range of environmental issues.

We authored the DSL Environmental Handbook chapter on the legal issues relating to contaminated sites. This chapter also discusses liability for contamination under the Resource Management Act (RMA) and remediation guidelines.

We have market leading expertise in providing advice on contamination issues in the context of corporate transactions, ongoing management, and strategic advice on site closure and divestment. Our work has regularly involved advising on liability and management options on contamination issues in various sectors including forestry – both timber processing and treatment, chemical processes, energy and arising from landfill and soil treatment operations.​

​Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme establishment
Advising Hawke's Bay Regional Investment Company on the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme, New Zealand’s biggest freshwater project for many years.

​Water allocation advice to iwi
Advising one of New Zealand’s largest iwi on existing and future opportunities and structures for water allocation, water trading and nutrients trading in relation to waterways, with a view to protecting the sustainability and mauri of the waterways.

​Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Freshwater Management policy
Advising MBIE on the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, with a focus on the implications for renewable electricity generation.

​Crown Irrigation Investment Fund (CIIF)
Advised the New Zealand Government on its newly formed CIIF and the establishment of an arm’s length commercial entity, which will manage the allocation of the CIIF and the Crown’s involvement in the design, build and operation of irrigation projects, within a regulatory and policy framework set by the Crown.

​Crown investment in irrigation
Advised the Ministry for Primary Industries on options available for Crown investment in irrigation infrastructure, including the form of Crown investment vehicles that could be used.

​Land and Water Forum advice
Provided legal advice to various stakeholders in the Land and Water Forum, which involved the interpretation of the existing legal framework for freshwater management in New Zealand and enabled these stakeholders to participate in the Forum with confidence. We also participated in the Forum process, providing knowledge and systems change thinking to inform the governance regime for water management in New Zealand.

Tasman District Council water permit regime
Successfully representing Tasman District Council in the Environment Court to defend their proposed Regional Policy Statement provisions to investigate a transferable water permit regime for more efficient management of freshwater resources.

Coeur Gold New Zealand water permit
Advising Coeur Gold on issues around managing discharges from a closed mine in the Coromandel to permit active and passive water treatment.

Tasman District Council environmental limits
Advising Tasman District Council in a matter involving consent renewals for a major fish processing factory and ice cream plant discharging into a sensitive estuary.

Masterton District sewerage plant
Advising disaffected land owners about discharges from the Masterton District Sewerage Plant into the Ruamahanga River. The land owners were concerned about the potential issue of long-term consents and the consequences on the discharge problem being resolved. The Council issued short-term consents thereby providing the time required to develop a satisfactory long-term solution.

Wairarapa region – Taumata Lagoon
A Wairarapa dairy farmer was seeking a major water abstraction permit from an area adjacent to a regionally significantly wetland known as Taumata Lagoon. The consent was hotly contested and involved complex and uncertain scientific data. We recommended an alternative strategy which reduced time and costs and involved supplementary abstractions in the short-term. We then secured consents that were satisfactory to all participants as an enduring solution.

Oruarangi Estuary
Acting for the insurer of a party responsible for the discharge of a highly toxic dye containing methyl violet into the Oruarangi Estuary, with severe ecological consequences. In sentencing the Court noted that apart from the Rena case no other case in New Zealand has involved such a serious effect on the environment. There is a substantial claim for damages and remediation.

Sale of Transpacific Industries
Involved in the sale of Transpacific Industries (who own Waste Management Limited and Living Earth, New Zealand’s largest operator of landfills) advising on a complex consenting framework, as well as liability and implications of the presence of existing and potential contaminants.

​Forestry and sawmills
Advised various forestry owners over the years on contamination matters related to both the timber harvesting as well as sawmill operations providing for timber treatment and processing. This advice covers all aspects of potential and existing contamination including in relation to risks and residual liability in corporate transactions and future development restrictions and opportunities.

National Environmental Standards
Advised a number of clients with advice on the implications and effect of the Resource Management (National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health) Regulations 2011, so that clients may understand and apply the Standard. We also provide ongoing advice on the application of the Standard to proposed changes in use, subdivision and/or development of land.

DSL Environmental Handbook
Authors of the DSL Environmental Handbook chapter on the legal issues relating to contaminated sites. The chapter discusses “contamination” under the Resource Management Act (RMA), the jurisdiction of territorial authorities and regional councils, discharge permits, activities covered by the National Environmental Standard, and enforcement measures (e.g. infringement notices, abatement notices, enforcement orders and offences under the Act). This chapter also discusses liability for contamination under the RMA and remediation guidelines.

Legacy sites
Advised on some of the most significant contaminated sites and spills in New Zealand, including Mapua and the Dow Chemicals site at Paritutu.

​Advised ​on a large number of landfill related issues over many years, including obtaining consents, monitoring and enforcement issues, bonds and site redevelopment post closure. Some interesting ancillary aspects of this work has included:

  • ​Installation of wind turbines on landfills
    Advised on a proposal to install wind turbines on land surrounding landfills, including advising on resource consent issues, the benefits and liabilities of possible business models for the project and whether the landowner could qualify for any climate change-related benefits from the project.

  • Carbon-related benefits from landfill gas project
    ​Advising Wellington City Council on potential carbon-related benefits arising from a proposed landfill gas project.

  • Tunnel strengthening around a landfill
    ​​Advised on legal aspects of the monitoring and supervision of tunnel strengthening work at land accessing a landfill.​

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  • Andrew Beatson

    Partner Wellington
  • Natasha Garvan

    Partner Auckland