Our towns and cities in the South Island have a long history of industrial activity. The industries tended to be messy and tended to use materials from asbestos through to coal tar with a lack of awareness of their toxicity to the environment and potential for harm to human health.

Cropped image from 1947 from the Whites Aviation Ltd Photograph Collection (Bayley Tompkins Hedges Tannery, Green Island, Dunedin. Ref: WA-10705-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23047632)

What lies beneath the surface of many sites in our cities is a constant surprise.  Much of our urban industrial land was once swamps, estuaries, tide flats or gullies.  These areas of land were not desirable for housing and were reclaimed through filling, often with industrial and household wastes.  Many of these sites have been subject to several phases of development with each development located on top of the demolished remains of the previous occupation.

Old industrial sites are often capped rather than fully remediated and contain the sometimes-ugly remains of the past century and a half of industrial activities buried within.