Nine tips for developers to consider to help minimise liability and manage unknowns: Choosing the right consultant and auditor can “make or break” your project. If you get an audit quote for as little as $10k, expect variations. This can blow-out, so make sure you carefully evaluate the scope of the audit that has been costed. Audit the auditor. If an audit has been triggered, ask for similar case studies from the auditor and examples of where they have assisted the client and provided timely pragmatic advice. Be prepared if your design plans have to change to suit environmental requirements. Site investigations and results may take a while; the sooner you start testing the more the likelihood to meet your project timeline. Don’t delay the inevitable. Engage the auditor before you start site assessments to avoid unnecessary re-testing. Choose an auditor who has a good working relationship with the consultant as this will reduce time and interaction issues between them. Factor in a contingency cost for unforeseen environmental issues. A “just in case” fund. Don’t get stuck in the “it won’t affect me” bubble. We have seen this many times. It’s smart to conduct due diligence before purchasing the site, no matter what.
Common mistakes developers make Often the environment is one of those distant factors you don’t think of first when purchasing a property. In some cases, an after-thought. This could be a hugely costly mistake and one that isn’t considered until you’re in the thick of it. The location is spot on, the market is ideal and the timing is perfect. Sounds too good to be true. Maybe it is. Consider your due diligence of the site and make sure you know what you’re buying and what you’ll be up for. Contaminated sites can be some of the most lucrative assets when managed correctly. It is important to understand your environmental exposure before and during acquisitions, transactions and construction. Types of potentially contaminated sites include the following: Service stations Market gardens Drycleaners Automotive and engine workshops Manufacturing workshops Landfills Quarries Gasworks Timber preservation and tanneries Rifle ranges Abattoirs Airports Railway yards Cattle dips Before you purchase a site It’s good practice to engage an environmental consultant to conduct an environmental due diligence (desktop study) to assess for potential risk of soil or groundwater contamination prior to purchasing a site. This is also known as a Preliminary Site Investigation or a Phase 1. This is a relatively cheap way to find out potential risks at the site and will help you make an informed decision. A Phase 1 covers such things as: What was the site historically used for? Is there an environmental audit overlay or a planning condition? What is the potential environmental liability and potential engagement with the EPA? What are the potential cost requirements? What are the clean-up, damages and business risks? Moving ahead with your purchase If purchasing a suspected contaminated site, you need to understand the extent of contamination issues and factor this into your budget for assessment (Detailed Site Investigation), potential remediation and auditing. We recommend you choose a consultant that is a Certified Environmental Practitioner (CEnvP) for the assessment/testing and remediation to give comfort that the scope of work proposed is appropriate and will survive scrutiny. Most developers factor in an environmental consultant, but many are surprised to find out they will likely also need to consider an environmental auditor. What’s the difference between a Consultant and an Auditor? The consultant undertakes the physical sampling, assessment, remediation and management plans to then provide to the auditor for verification. Environmental auditors are appointed by a regulating state government body (such as EPA) and are highly qualified and skilled individuals who have met strict criteria and guidelines. An auditor is independent and accountable to the EPA for verifying that the consultant’s findings are in accordance with the guidelines, and ultimately assists in “lifting” planning restrictions and deciding if the intended use of the site is suitable. The environmental consultant cannot be the auditor at the same site as this would be seen as a conflict of interest – like marking your own homework. What would trigger an Environmental Audit? An Environmental Audit may be required when: you are redeveloping a potentially contaminated site to a more sensitive use (e.g. from a former petrol station to residential or a childcare centre); you are developing land that is covered by an Environmental Audit Overlay; there is a planning permit requirement relating to a site located in a landfill buffer zone; it is requested by local council as a condition in your development application; you are wanting to assist in reducing future risk and understand potential contamination management measures (due diligence); EPA requests to understand the risk of harm caused by an activity; or compliance is to be demonstrated with a regulatory licence. Can an auditor add value? Experienced auditors can add value by providing advice prior to purchasing a site to point out any environmental liabilities and potentially avoid or minimise ongoing financial costs. When you engage an auditor early in the process you can save on time and costs associated with investigations, avoiding unnecessary re-work. The auditor can help guide you from the start. Auditors can also offer creative ways to manage issues that pose a potential threat to human health and the environment. For example, methods of vapour intrusion ventilation in a basement carpark of a multi-storey residential apartment. Additionally, auditors interact with the many stakeholders and understand the processes and legislation to help move things along quickly and effectively. What do I need to consider when appointing an Auditor? Auditors are a key part of the development approval process and careful consideration should be exercised in appointing the right auditor. Each auditor is different as they come with varying experiences and areas of expertise. Whilst they all try to enforce and uphold the same rules, regulations and practices, matching an auditor’s experience and/or area of expertise with the project is typically beneficial. Experience, communication, outcome-focused, integrity, quality; these are qualities that form a good, reliable auditor. Don’t get caught out Choosing the right consultant and auditor can “make or break” your project. If you get an audit quote for as little as $10k, expect variations. This can blow-out, so make sure you carefully evaluate the scope of the audit that has been costed. Audit the auditor. If an audit has been triggered, ask for similar case studies from the auditor and examples of where they have assisted the client and provided timely pragmatic advice. Be prepared if your design plans have to change to suit environmental requirements. Site investigations and results may take a while; the sooner you start testing the more the likelihood to meet your project timeline. Engage the auditor before you start site assessments to avoid unnecessary re-testing. Choose an auditor who has a good working relationship with the consultant as this will reduce time and interaction issues between them. Factor in a contingency cost for unforeseen environmental issues. A “just in case” fund. Don’t get stuck in the “it won’t affect me” bubble. We have seen this many times. It’s smart to conduct due diligence before purchasing the site, no matter what. Author: Phil Hitchcock and Tanya Thake This article is republished from Urban.com.au under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
We have some fantastic news. Alyson has been appointed as an auditor in Victoria. She applied via mutual recognition in NSW and was swiftly accepted, no interviews, no questions, no extra details. Alyson has over 20 years experience and to complement her auditor status she is also a reputable risk assessor. This is a huge acknowledgement of respect the EPA has for Alyson as they have gotten to know her over the past few years. We are thrilled to open up the Vic market to another great AEA auditor in this State. On behalf of all the AEA team, congratulations to you Alyson on your appointment!
All states, territories and the Australian Government have collaborated to develop a PFAS National Environmental Management Plan (PFAS NEMP) version 2.0. The final PFAS NEMP 2.0 was agreed by Heads of EPAs in October 2019. The PFAS NEMP 2.0 is now being implemented in the Commonwealth and other jurisdictions. AEA has several in-house specialists with a history in reviewing and auditing sites affected by PFAS. Please contact us for case studies and to find out how we can help you. Read more information and access the PFAS NEMP here.
BREAKING NEWS: Commencement of the new Victorian Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018 has been postponed until 1 July 2021. Read the details here.
Congratulations to Shandel Coleman for becoming an auditor in Queensland! This is a huge milestone to your professional career and a huge asset to our team at AEA. Well done and well deserved!
On behalf of the whole team at AEA we want to congratulate Kevin Masterton for becoming an auditor in Queensland! Your persistence and hard work has created a huge success for you. Well done Kev!
The twins (Mia Autumn and Eva Violet) were safely born into the Pearce family on the 6th of April. From all of the AEA team, congratulations to Jean-Paul, Mel and Finn – a beautiful time to be at home with your new family. We hope you all settle in and no doubt having three kids under 2 in the house will be a lot of fun!
AEA would like to welcome Hyatt Phan to the team. Hyatt has taken on the role of Administration & HR Officer and is based in our Melbourne office. Her energy and efficiency has already been a refreshing touch to our great team.
We get asked “How much will an audit cost?” almost every day. Auditors generally charge by an hourly rate. The rates vary depending on the experience and requirement of the auditor chosen. There are many factors for why the cost of an audit would differ. Some of these variables to consider may include: Nature and extent of contamination; Timing and quality of the consultants assessment and remediation work; Complexity of the site and future use; Number of documents for audit review; and, Need for a site inspection. If you engage an auditor early in the process then this may result in significant cost savings by reducing any possible project delays. Best case scenario would be a site that has undertaken due diligence prior to purchasing and has resulted in minimal contamination impact to human health and the environment, complemented with good quality consultant reports for auditor review. A more complicated scenario may be a proposed mixed-use site purchased on a contaminated property without any due diligence (resulting in further testing and remediation works) together with poor quality consultant reports and engaging an environmental auditor late in the process. What types of documents do Auditors need to review? Auditors review all sorts of documents, including results from soil sampling and analysis, groundwater monitoring events, remediation action plans, site environmental management plans, planning and development plans, any other relevant documents at the request of the auditor to assist in the audit outcome. Important Note Although those Auditors with more years’ experience may have a higher hourly rate, they may add value by completing document reviews quicker or pick up on issues for faster attention by the client. Choosing the right Auditor for your project will make a difference to the project’s bottom line. At AEA, we have seven Auditors with multiple accreditations/appointments across the country and a variety of disciplines. Call one of our offices to find the right Auditor to suit your project.