Finding what lurks beneath

A recent article in the Sunday Age titled “What lurks beneath? Victoria’s toxic challenge” highlighted a number of issues regarding the difficulties associated with identifying contaminated sites in Victoria. The same issues are associated with other Australian states.

Australia has lagged behind some other countries in developing systems for the identification and notification of environmental contamination when buying and selling a property. The UK has a history of industrial development almost as old as the European settlement of Australia itself coupled with potential hazards, which we thankfully do not face in Australia, such as unexploded ordnance.

The UK has an advanced competitive market in identifying and reporting on property-based risk. Companies such as Envirocheck have built multi-million pound businesses developing databases of property-related risk, integrating this information with authoritative data and selling reports to those undertaking due diligence on properties that they are purchasing.



Victoria lacks a database, particularly a geographic database of contaminated land. The Sunday Age article acknowledges the difficulties and cost of establishing such a database and after developing a database of historical petrol station sites over the Melbourne metropolitan area for the CheckSite service I can vouch for the complexities associated with this exercise.

In the absence of property-based risk databases from ‘official’ sources, buyers of property in potentially risky areas such as former industrial sites, can minimise their exposure by arranging for an environmental site assessment by a qualified provider. State Government could also consider requiring an environmental assessment as a component of a Section32 statement on the sale of land in areas of potential risk. A thorough site assessment will not be cheap but it will be a lot less expensive than finding that your site is unsuitable for the beneficial use that you intended.

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Jeremy Alcorn

As leader of the Spatial Vision’s Information Services business area, Jeremy helps organisations turn data into business information.  Jeremy’s role includes distributing and value-adding spatial data, identifying and locating spatial datasets for a variety of clients and purposes, and cleaning and restructuring data to meet client’s business needs. He has extensive experience in managing large data capture and conversion projects. Jeremy adopts spatial industry best practice for managing and distributing spatial data and contributes to consultancies requiring specialist input on the acquisition and management of spatial data.

Jeremy manages a number of specialist information products at Spatial Vision including CheckSite, site-specific reports which draw on a number of authoritative sources to identify property related risk, the provision of Vicmap data and NEXUS for processing Vicmap IUF files.

Jeremy has also undertaken a number of advisory projects, consulting with businesses to scope their specific geospatial requirements and developing road maps to assist businesses to capitalise on their investment in GIS. 

For any enquiries please contact us on 1300 36 67 96 or via contact form

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