On 30 September 2015, it is anticipated that changes will commence to the way in which contaminated land is assessed and managed in Queensland. These changes were passed by Parliament in 2014 but are only now being given effect.

Who is affected?

Individuals or organisations that are investigating, managing or cleaning up contamination under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld) will be affected by these changes. Parties that request a change to the status of land listed on the Environmental Management Register (EMR) or the Contaminated Land Register (CLR) will also have to comply with the new regime upon its commencement.

Mandatory auditor certification

Once the changes take effect, it will be necessary to have all contaminated land investigation documents certified by an approved auditor prior to submitting them to the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP). Previously, certification was voluntary. The affected documents include site investigation reports, validation reports and draft site management plans (and amended plans). Auditor certification will not be required for soil disposal permits.

The auditor’s certification will need to confirm that the contaminated land investigation document being submitted to DEHP complies with regulatory content requirements, including a statement of uses or activities for which the site is suitable.

This shift to mandatory auditor certification complements recent amendments to the Sustainable Planning Regulation 2009(Qld), which require a party contemplating specific high-risk land use changes on contaminated land to first obtain a compliance permit from an approved auditor.

DEHP’s role under the new regime

DEHP will continue to make decisions in relation to draft site management plans (and amended plans) that have been certified by an approved auditor and will update the EMR or CLR as appropriate. DEHP will also oversee the appointment and performance of auditors.

Are suitably qualified persons affected by these arrangements?

Suitably qualified persons (contaminated land consultants) engaged to carry out works must have the contaminated land investigation documents which they prepare certified by an approved auditor. If a suitably qualified person is also an approved auditor, they cannot certify their own work. There will be guidance material developed to assist these individuals with meeting the new requirements.

How do the changes affect contaminated land projects underway now?

Any site investigation report, validation report or draft site management plan (or amended plan) which DEHP receives on or after 30 September 2015 must comply with the new requirements. Contaminated land investigation documents submitted without auditor certification will be returned.

Locating an auditor

Currently, there are 17 auditors approved by DEHP for contaminated land matters.