PROJECTS / Hazardous substances - Palmerston North City
In 2013 we carried out a detailed review of Palmerston North City Council’s Hazardous Substance provisions in their District Plan. They had not been reviewed since 1995 and we ended up overhauling them completely. The new, more streamlined provisions tidied up gaps and overlaps with the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO) legislation.
We were involved in all stages of the review process, from coordinating the initial consultation, to drafting the new provisions, managing the submission process, preparing the s42A report and presenting at the hearing.
The Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO) was introduced in 1996, and it has significantly changed how district councils deal with hazardous substances in their district plans. We helped Palmerston North City Council (PNCC) understand their responsibilities under the HSNO framework, including managing and regulating Genetically Modified Organisms, and created district plan provisions that addressed hazardous substance issues effectively and efficiently. Like many district plans in New Zealand, the bulk of the Palmerston North City District Plan (the Plan) was written pre-HSNO. The Plan required people to use the Hazardous Facilities Screening Procedure (HFSP) to determine whether a hazardous facility needed resource consent to use, store or transport hazardous substances. PNCC found the HFSP difficult to use and it required constant updates to include new substances. In addition, it did not align with HSNO and other legislation that were already regulating and certifying hazardous substances.
Making the changes
PNCC’s policy and consents staff and local stakeholders worked through the overhauled provisions with us. They agreed to classify most activities involving hazardous substances as permitted activities. This change recognised that the environment and public health and safety are already protected under HSNO. Discretionary activity status was given to Major Hazardous Facilities - specific facilities with large actual or potential environmental effects that need closer oversight. Submissions from the public and comments in the commissioner’s decision showed considerable support for the council’s new approach to hazardous substances.
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