The contaminated site assessment and remediation industry in Australia is a substantial and important economic activity. It is now worth greater than $3 billion annually and with growth of about 20% per annum in recent years. Employment in the sector has also grown with about 10,000 people currently employed in the sector and it is likely that up to 1,000 of these are engaged as contaminated site practitioners.
The National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure, together with regulatory guidance in most states, requires a reasonable level of competence for contaminated land practitioners. However, sector consumers were concerned about the variable and sometimes poor quality of service provided by practitioners, which does not always meet their needs. There was a clear need to benchmark, maintain and improve the standard of professional services provided and to ensure a nationally consistent standard across Australia while maintaining innovation and diversity within the Industry.
Industry practitioners and regulators identified the need for competency standards to be supported by improved and more accessible training and education standards.
To support the industry address these issues, and underpin the sector in Australia as a whole, stakeholders recognised that a certification scheme for contaminated land practitioners would be beneficial.
Following feedback and support from end users, the Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination and Remediation of the Environment (CRC CARE), in consultation with practitioners, regulators and site owners, undertook the development of a certification scheme for contaminated land practitioners.
The certification scheme, designed specifically for Australia, aims to provide a professional industry standard to contamination industry practitioners. The committee responsible for the development of the scheme included cross-sector representatives from the Australian contaminated site sector including consultants, site owners (petroleum, mining) and regulators.
The certification scheme is designed to complement the accredited site contamination auditor system currently operating in Australia. In so doing it will provide a comprehensive and rigorous approach to establishing an Australia-wide standard based on demonstrated competencies and quality of performance.
In the development of the certification scheme, industry practitioners and regulators preferred a scheme with governance arrangements and assessment processes that ensure expertise, fairness, equity and confidence in achieving the desired standard. Stakeholders as a whole identified the need to include a complaints mechanism to ensure standards are maintained and poor performance is addressed.
Following sector wide consultation for the development of the requirements for the scheme, and setting the standards for the attainment of certification status, the first certification scheme for contaminated land practitioners was created.
The scheme now operates under the banner of Site Contamination Practitioners Australia (SCP Australia) with governance provided by a National Executive Committee (NEC).