Resource Management Act: RMA Link: Topics: Details

The RMAlink project aims to make community participation in all Resource Management Act processes more straightforward and less time-consuming. More effective participation from those with a concern for the environment will contribute towards improving environmental outcomes nationwide.

Topics: Details

Hosted by:

Wellington Community Network
Subject Waste Management

Text Landfills

In 1995, and again in 98/99, MFE carried out a nationwide census of landfills. It found many operating without the necessary consents, non-compliance with consents, poor performance in the disposal of hazardous wastes, and inadequate management of closed landfills. The second census showed a slight improvement, but highlighted the need for government action.

In response to these issues, the Ministry developed a Landfill Management Programme, with the aim of improving management of landfills and their risks. Programme objectives are for:

  • All landfills to be adequately engineered, consistent with national guidelines.
  • All landfills to be consented, and compliant with consent conditions
  • Landfill consent conditions to reflect consistent standards of environmental management nationwide
  • Open burning to be banned
  • All landfills to be managed by trained operators
  • Hazardous waste to be effectively managed and controlled
  • Closed landfill sites to be effectively monitored and managed
  • The true cost of landfill management to be met through correct pricing of waste disposal

These objectives are included in the New Zealand Waste Strategy (2002). This, and other publications in the reference list below provide accepted guidelines for best practice in the development and operation of landfills. As a result of this MFE work programme, best practice guidelines are now clearly established.

There is a trend towards closure of small landfills, and development of larger scale facilities. Some local authorities share sites, and Canterburys Kate Valley landfill will accept waste from across the region. Separation of different types of waste is now common, with composting and recycling on site. Leachate can be collected and treated, and gas collected and used or disposed of. MFE has prepared a proposal for a National Environmental Standard for the collection and destruction/use of landfill gas.

Landfill waste acceptance criteria have been developed. Landfills that offer a lower level of environmental protection are restricted to accepting non-hazardous types of waste. For more information visit the 'Hazardous Waste' topic page.

Landfill sites may be provided for in a district plan by a designation, or within plan rules. District plans must provide adequate scope for councils and communities to manage the environmental effects or risks (both short and long term) associated with landfills. Rules and methods for landfills (and cleanfills) should be considered carefully when your district plan is under review. Anything less than discretionary status in a plan is unsatisfactory, and even this can be problematic, as demonstrated by the Gisborne Landfill court case example listed below.

Setting appropriate fees for waste disposal to landfill is an important non-regulatory measure for achieving the purpose of the RMA. Correct pricing improves the economic viability of waste reduction measures. Guidelines for this have been produced by MFE, and it is important that communities advocate for this in the LTCCP process.

A landfill will require a land use consent, or a designation, from the local authority. It will require a range of regional council consents for water use, permits for discharges to air and water, and for earthworks in some instances.

See 'Waste Reduction' topic page for alternatives to landfill.  


MFE (2001) Guide to Landfill Consent Conditions ME 389 104p
Ministry for the Environment, Wellington. ISBN 0-478-24020-1
Description:Prepared to assist in the development and effective enforcement of robust resource consent conditions for landfills. Contains suggested outline for a landfill management plan, and a case study.

MFE (2002) A Guide to the Management of Cleanfills ME 418
Ministry for the Environment, Wellington.
Description:This report was prepared to help councils and cleanfill operators by providing a national definition for cleanfills, defining appropriate waste acceptance criteria, and best practice methods for cleanfill site management.

Centre for Advanced Engineering in New Zealand (2000) Landfill Guidelines 112p ISBN 0-908993-23-4
Available from CAENZ $55.00
Description:Outlines best engineering practice, and RMA legislative requirements, with regard to landfill siting, design, operation and monitoring. Covers issues of managing the various categories of waste. Endorsed by MFE.

Centre for Advanced Engineering in New Zealand (2000) Management of Hazardous Waste 166p ISBN 0-908993-22-6
Available from CAENZ
Description: Covers legislation and regulations that relate to hazardous wastes. Best practice methods for treatment of different categories, transport issues, disposal processes, storage considerations.

MFE (2001) A Guide to the Management of Closing and Closed Landfills in New Zealand ME 390
Ministry for the Environment, Wellington.
Description: Methods of risk assessment for small landfills, and closed sites. How to deal with contamination. Monitoring procedures.

MFE (2002) Solid Waste Analysis Protocol ME 430
Ministry for the Environment, Wellington.
Description: Guidelines for types of data to be collected, and collection methods. Addresses the need for nationwide collection of reliable and consistent data on solid waste.

MFE(2002) Landfill Full Cost Accounting Guide for New Zealand.
Ministry for the Environment, Wellington.
Description: This report contains background information on best practice, and outlines methods of calculating a pricing that reflects true cost (ie includes long-term impacts, site rehabilitation beyond closure date, remediation of environmental effects. Contains good reference list.

MFE (2002) New Zealand Waste Strategy ME 422
Ministry for the Environment, Wellington.
Description: Prepared jointly by MFE and Local Government NZ. A framework for minimising, and for sustainable management of waste. Includes action plan, with targets for compliance with best practice to 2020. Many of these targets relate to landfills.

MFE (2004)Proposed National Environmental Standards for Landfill Gas: Report on Submissions February 2004 ME504
Ministry for the Environment, Wellington.
Available online at www.mfe.govt/publications
Description: This document presents an overview of submissions received as a result of public consultation.

Web-Based Resources
Resources: The MFE site has a lot of information about their work programmes on waste, technical reports, and results of the landfill census.
Organisation: Environment Canterbury
Resources: Information on the Kate Valley landfill resource consent decision can be found at
Other information about waste management in the Canterbury region can be found on this site.


Relevant Case Law