Investigation into the remediation of the contaminated site at Mapua
From the Commissioner's Overview
The settlement of Mapua has grown beside a particularly beautiful estuary a few kilometres west of Nelson. My childhood memory of Nelson-Tasman is of sunshine, beaches and apple orchards. In 1932 Mapua would have been a logical place for the Fruitgrowers Chemical Company (FCC) to build its plant for manufacturing pesticides. Thirteen years later, production of the powerful new organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) began.
The FCC plant was established in a time of far less scientific understanding of chemical toxins, and consequently little appreciation of the need for protecting people or the environment from exposure to them. By the time the plant closed in 1988, this situation had changed. The site was abandoned and its legacy of contaminated soil inherited by the people of the Tasman District.
The Mapua site was considered to be one of the worst contaminated sites in the country. It was a problem of a complexity and scale that was clearly beyond the resources of many councils. In 1999, with a growing awareness of the contaminated land issue in New Zealand, the government decided to assist Tasman District Council (TDC) with funding, as well as research and advice. From that time the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) began to work actively towards the remediation of the site.
In 2008, the remediation was completed. The long process was fraught with challenges. The type and scale of remediation was new territory for New Zealand, and indeed it would be astonishing if there had been no mistakes or errors of judgement. Further, although the remediation technology is now being used successfully overseas, that success must, to some extent, be based on the lessons learned by its owner from the less-than-satisfactory operation in its first commercial application.
It is my hope that this investigation will be seen as providing the opportunity to learn and feed positively into contaminated sites policy and management.