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Choosing a contaminated land consultant

Photo of contaminated siteDisclaimer: Waikato Regional Council has prepared this information to help businesses and individuals select a contaminated land consultant for contaminated site investigations and remediation.  Waikato Regional Council has prepared this information in good faith exercising all reasonable care and attention, but no representation or warranty, express or implied, is made, and Waikato Regional Council expressly disclaims any such representation or warranty that might be deemed to have been given, as to the relevance, accuracy, completeness, exhaustiveness, currency, suitability, reliability or fitness for purpose of this information in respect of any particular user's circumstances.  Waikato Regional Council reserves its right to make changes to this information at any time.

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 works do not meet the appropriate environmental, planning and reporting standards. Poor quality contaminated site reports usually result in further work at an additional cost and create dealys in obtaining resource consents.  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. Like all things, the cheapest price may not necessarily obtain the best result.

Please note that the Waikato Regional Council cannot recommend specific consultants, but the following information might help you choose the best service for your needs.

Where to find contaminated land consultants

The simplest place to start looking for a contaminated land consultant is under 'Environmental Consultants' in the Yellow Pages or by conducting a simple internet search. The list of available consultants is extensive, but not all of the consultants will have relevant experience or qualifications in contaminated site assessment and remediation.  Contact people or businesses you know who have engaged a contaminated land consultant in the past and ask whether they can share their experience or make a recommendation.

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 and specific end goals you can provide, the more accurate the quotes are likely to be.

If you are undertaking a site investigation as a requirement of the NES1 for contaminated land; you need to ensure that the consultant you select can be considered a ‘Suitably Qualified and Experienced Practitioner’ (SQEP).  There is a contaminated land industry accreditation scheme (similar to certified engineers) available to New Zealand consultants called Certified Environmental Practitioner (Contaminated Land Specialist). Your city or district council may use its discretion to consider consultants without this accreditation ‘SQEPs’, but it is worth checking with them before you make a final decision.

You might like to consider asking your propspective consultant(s)the following questions:

  • •Do you have CEnvP(CL) accreditation?  
  • Who will be working on my project?  Do they have relevant skills and experience?2
  • Does the company have prior experience with similar sites and similar project purposes (e.g. meeting regulatory requirements)?
  • Does the company hold sufficient public liability and professional indemnity insurance ?3
  • Is the company familiar with the local legislation (NES, District Plan, Regional Plan?) and national best practice guidelines?
  • Has your company worked with local government previously, and have experience with their expectations?
  • What are your 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 does not meet the expectations of the relevant consenting/regulatory authority the first time, it is likely to cost additional time and money to rectify and this will not be reflected in an initial 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 the regulatory agencies as they may already have relationships in place.  Consultants may attach a standard contract to their proposal, but they will usually be open to negotiate if necessary.  Ask your solicitor for advice if you are unsure.