Hazardous Waste

The Ministry for the Environment states there is a significant risk to human health and the environment if hazardous wastes are improperly managed. 4304  New Zealand is party to international environmental agreements related to the import and export of hazardous waste which are designed to prevent harm to human health and the environment. 4305  A permit must be obtained before waste that is defined as hazardous is imported to, or exported from New Zealand.

The Ministry for the Environment have complied “Guidelines for the Management of Hazardous Waste” to provide guidance on best practice hazardous waste management for handlers of hazardous waste. Module 2 “Landfill Waste Acceptance Criteria and Landfill Classification” is designed to be implemented through the resource consent process.

Types of Waste

Waste is classified into four general catagories:

  • Natural, inert waste
  • Municipal solid waste
  • Industrial waste
  • Hazardous waste.

Disposing of waste - landfills

Landfills are facilities for the controlled disposal of waste into or onto land.  Under the RMA they must have consent conditions which are appropriate to the material they accept. 

A cleanfill is a landfill that only accepts waste that will not harm peope or the environment put on or into land.   Cleanfill material includes virgin natural materials such as clay, soil and rock.  It is free of inter alia combustible, potentially hazardous substances and products derived from hazardous waste treatment. 4306

The severity of restriction on the design, siting, operating and monitoring of the landfills used for the disposal the other waste types depend on which waste type it is intended to dispose of.  For example, restrictions and requirements on landfills for hazardous waste will be considerably more stringent than for landfills accepting only municipal solids. 4307


There is an Industry generated non- statutory code of practice for the transport of liquid waste and hazardous waste from the generator to a treatment and/or disposal point.  The Liquid and Hazardous Waste Operators Certification Council oversee a national audit and certification scheme for operators based on adherence to the code.

Planning controls

Whilst there are no overarching statutory controls aimed specifically at hazardous wastes on land, under the RMA regional and territorial authorities are empowered to create planning controls on any actual or potential effects of the use, development, or protection of land, including for the purpose of - the prevention or mitigation of any adverse effects of the storage, use, disposal, or transportation of hazardous substances. 4308  Similar control is given to regional councils in regard to the coastal marine area including the dumping and incineration of waste, 4309  the discharge of harmful substances from ships or offshore installations and prohibitions to dump or store any radioactive waste or other radioactive matter or toxic or hazardous waste on or in any land or water. 4310

Under the Local Government Act 2002 district and city councils must develop a waste management plan 4311  for their communities to manage waste disposal, waste treatment and waste reduction options like recycling. A 2008 Ministry for the Environment factsheet on waste states “It has been estimated that around 10 per cent of the waste we dispose of to landfill is hazardous waste.” 4312

The HSNO Act does not include a separate definition for hazardous waste and it is expected that the requirements for approvals to be held by the person in possession of hazardous substances above specified quantities (under the HSNO regulations) will apply. 4313

The Act provides for enforcement by suitably qualified officers, whom may serve compliance orders, 4314  or infringement notices 4315  and the act contains a number of offences 4316  with maximum penalties of up to $500,000 and imprisonment for a maximum of 3 months. 4317

  1. http://www.mfe.govt.nz/waste/types-waste/hazardous-waste/definition-hazardous-waste

  2. United Nations Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (opened for signature 22 March 1989, entered into force 5 May 1992).

  3. http://www.mfe.govt.nz/waste/landfills-and-cleanfills/cleanfills

  4. See Centre for Advanced Engineering 2000 Landfill Guidelines Christchurch. University of Canterbury.

  5. Section 30(1)(c) and 31(1)(b)(ii) RMA 1991.

  6. Section 15(a) RMA 1991.

  7. Section 15(c) RMA 1991.

  8. Section 286 RMA 1991.

  9. Ministry for the Environment “Waste” (2008) Ministry for the Environment <www.mfe.govt.nz>.

  10. James Gardner- Hopkins” hazardous substances” in Derek Nolan (ed) Environmental and Resource Management Law (4th ed, LexisNexis, Wellington, 2011 [11.66].

  11. Section 104 Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996.

  12. Section 112 Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996.

  13. Section 109 Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996.

  14. Section 114 Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996.

Last updated at 10:55AM on November 27, 2015