How to choose a contaminated land consultant

The Resources Management (National Environmental Standard for Assessing and Managing Contaminants in Soil to Protect Human Health) Regulations 2011 (the NES) establishes a requirement that site investigation reports be performed under the direction of and certified by a “suitably qualified and experienced practitioner” (SQEP).

A contaminated land consultant needs to be selected carefully. Potentially contaminated and contaminated sites typically present a wide range of issues that require a range of technical expertise and not all environmental consultants are suitably qualified to undertake all types of site assessment and investigation work.

There can be considerable time, economic and legal implications if a site investigation and/or remediation work does not meet the appropriate environmental, planning and reporting standards. Poor quality contaminated site reports usually result in further work at an additional cost. You can save time and money by selecting the consultant who is most appropriate for your needs and ensuring the service they provide is fit for purpose from the outset.

Please note that Waikato District Council cannot recommend specific consultants.

Selecting a contaminated land consultant

You might find it helpful to make a short list of potential consultants and request more than one quote.  It is important to all parties that you have a clear definition of what you want them to achieve (e.g. are you conducting due diligence; ascertaining whether it is safe to consume home grown vegetables; or trying to satisfy NES requirements for a subdivision proposal?).  Gather as much background information as you can about the site regarding historical activities, potential contamination and previous practices.  The better the background information you can provide, the more accurate the quotes are likely to be.

You might like to consider the following questions:

  • Who will be working on my project?  Do they have relevant skills and experience?1
  • Does the company have prior experience with similar sites and similar project purposes (e.g. meeting regulatory requirements)?
  • Does the company have sufficient public liability and professional indemnity insurance ?2
  • Is the consultancy familiar with the local legislation (NES, District Plan, Regional Plan?) and national best practice guidelines?
  • What are their health and safety procedures?
  • What is the breakdown of costs, and what might be potential additional costs?
  • How long will the project take, including any field work, laboratory analysis, report writing and review?

Evaluate the contaminated land consultants

As well as evaluating quotes against cost, check that the consultant has a good understanding of the work required, that they have provided sufficient detail on how they will meet the purpose of the work and provide a detailed timeline. 

Remember that if a report is not accepted by the relevant consenting/regulatory authority first time, it could cost additional time and money to rectify later and this will not be reflected in a quote.

Engaging your contaminated land consultant

Once you have selected a consultant, you’ll want to come to an agreement about the services they will provide.  Whether this be via written correspondence or a formal contract, make sure it is in writing and includes agreement on timeframes, cost, draft and final reports, insurance provisions for the job, document ownership etc. 

You might also like to make provision for the consultant to forward the report directly to their contacts at the regulatory agencies if these relationships are already in place.  Consultants may attach a standard contract to their proposal, but they will usually be prepared to negotiate if necessary.  Ask your solicitor for advice if you are unsure.

Notes

Contaminated land consultant certification schemes can be used to establish that an individual does hold relevant expertise and experience; however please note that these accreditations are not compulsory  so if a practitioner does not hold certification it does not mean that they are not suitably qualified or experienced.  These certifications include the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand’s (EIANZ) Contaminated Land Assessment Specialist Certified Environmental Practitioner (CLA Specialist CEnvP) scheme and it is likely more will be available in the future.

Public liability insurance protects against unexpected and unintended personal injury or property damage and professional indemnity insurance provides protection against costs of negligent advice or services.