Sepp 55 Prelim and Detailed Site Investigations

SEPP 55 Preliminary Site Investigations and Detailed Site Investigations – Remediation of Land

(SEPP 55 Revision – May 2020)

The latest revision to SEPP 55 occurred is from April 2020.  It is a requirement of Consent Authorities for Contamination and Remediation to be considered in determining development applications.  As outlined in Section 7 of SEPP 55 councils are required to consider if land is contaminated as part of many development applications – particularly for change of use to a more sensitive land use.  This assessment to determine the potential for land to be contaminated is represented by a Preliminary Site Investigation (PSI) (also called a Stage 1 or Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment Report).  These SEPP 55 Preliminary Site Investigation Reports generally entail a detailed records review such as aerial photographs, council records of development and business approval records, EPA records of contamination, land titles, Safework NSW records, and often other historical searches of the site and its surrounds in relation to the potential for contamination.  Clients are often confused as to why council require an assessment for contamination under SEPP 55.  The most easily understood example is for a change of use to a highly sensitive receptor such as a Child Care Centre.  Children are particularly susceptible to contamination due to a range of factors including contamination from putting their hands to their faces and mouth and their threshold is lower due to their smaller body sizes.  Child Care Centres always require a PSI assessment and these are highly important for change of use to such a highly sensitive use such as a Child Care Centre.  Anderson Environmental Pty Ltd has undertaken many SEPP 55 Assessments for Child Care Centres.  For older buildings being converted into a Child Care Centre often there are a range of potential contaminants present including lead paint (which sometimes contaminates the soil on the outside of the building), asbestos in the soil from construction or previous renovations and various herbicide and pesticide contamination from historical use around the building.  These represent risks to children and sometimes staff in such a situation.

Depending on the findings of a PSI sometimes a Detailed Site Investigation (or Stage 2 Contamination Assessment) is required if there are risks present of informational gaps from previous or nearby uses.  Nearby uses can sometimes contaminate a site due to runoff from industrial or other manufacturing sites onto the subject site or from groundwater contamination.  High risk sites occurring close to a site, (present and former/historical) such as industrial facilities, service stations, dry cleaners, manufacturing etc represent a risk and the closer the site the higher the risk.  Generally, assessments of potential risks are undertaken within approximately 300 metres of the property boundary depending on the type of risk from present or former neighbouring uses.  Groundwater contamination is sometimes an issue if the groundwater is contaminated by chemicals.  This can occur due to leaking underground storage tanks such as from Service Stations or from a variety of other sources including Dry Cleaners and Industrial Sites.  Groundwater contamination can travel a significant distance from its source and therefore a distance around the property boundary is examined to evaluate potential risks.  Detailed Site Investigations (DSI) are guided by the information gathered in the Preliminary Site Investigation and involve soil and groundwater sampling depending on the Contaminants of Potential Concern.  These investigations are undertaken in accordance with NSW EPA Guidelines and the Federal National Environmental Protection Measure (NEPM).  The National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure 1999 (ASC NEPM) is used by environmental auditors, site assessors, landowners, developers, industry and regulators when assessing land contamination.  This provides a technical and legislative framework for undertaking Detailed Site Assessments.  A DSI will determine if there is contamination present on the site in relation to the proposed use and determine its extent (both laterally and horizontally) and provide information on the risk.

Anderson Environmental undertaking drilling for a site assessment

Council must also be satisfied that if the land is contaminated, that the land is suitable in its contaminated state (or will be suitable, after remediation) for the purpose for which the development is proposed to be carried out.  Therefore, the results of a DSI assessment must indicate whether a Remedial Action Plan is required for the Remediation of the site so the site can be made safe for its intended use.  Remedial Action Plans evaluate the risks in detail and recommend often a range of remediation options for the management and/or entire removal of the contamination from the site.  Depending on the site and its intended use there are various threshold levels for the broad range of contaminants.  Once a Remedial Action Plan is approved and the works carried out on the ground to remediate the site a Site Validation and Closure Report is issued outlining the works carried out to outline the remedial actions which have been undertaken for the site.

Please give us a call to discuss your requirements.


State Environmental Planning Policy

State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala Habitat Protection 2019) the Koala SEPP

The new Koala SEPP replaces SEPP 44. The new SEPP commenced in March 2020, however the Koala Habitat Protection Guideline which is central to the operation of the SEPP is yet to finalised. The exact impacts of the new SEPP on development activities will not be known until the acceptance of this new guideline along with its interpretation through various Development Applications.

The Koala SEPP is triggered when a development under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act where the land in question is covered by the Koala SEPP. This is any land within a specified list of local government areas.  The trigger for the application of the Koala SEPP is an application for development consent under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act on land covered by the SEPP. This is any land within a specified list of local government areas.

The SEPP also facilitates the preparation by local councils of Koala Plans of Management. Many councils have existing Koala Management Plans or Koala Plans of Management (KPOM) which then become the basis for assessing any development application (DA), rather than the SEPP.

A 1 hectare trigger applies to the size of the land which is the subject of the DA and any adjoining land within the same ownership.

When determining whether the land includes feed tree species or is core koala habitat, the whole lot is considered and not just the development area.

Whether Koala feed tree species are present relates to whether the land is “highly suitable koala habitat”, The list of Koala feed trees has as been significantly expanded – from 10 species under SEPP 44 to 123 species under the new SEPP and these lists are specific to the regional Koala Management Areas.

Compared to SEPP 44 the threshold of what constitutes core Koala Habitat has been lowered. Core koala habitat as defined by the SEPP is as follows:

  • An area where koalas are present;
  • An area which has been assessed as being “highly suitable koala habitat” and where koalas have been recorded as being present in the previous 18 years.

With experience since 1992 as Ecologists and qualified BAM 2020 Assessors we are here to assist our clients with  their developments from Koala SEPP assessments to 5-Part Tests and BAM Assessments.

Why not give us a call to discuss your project requirements.

Fauna Rescue and Ecological Supervision (Site Ecologist)

At Anderson Environmental Pty Ltd, in addition to our Biodiversity Assessment Method (BAM) Assessments and 5-Part Tests we also undertake the business end of developments once the development is approved and taking place on the ground.  Below shows a photo of a recent Fauna Rescue and Ecological Supervision job as part of the Development Consent conditions for a residential subdivision in Riverstone.

With experience as Ecologists since 1992 along with having staff who are BAM Certified Assessors along with a Certified Practicing Ecological Consultant we are highly experienced to assist our clients with their projects from inception and early planning, through implementation to completion and beyond.  Our range of services including Vegetation Management Plans and their on-site implementation and management through Bush Regeneration and Weed Control assists our clients with the continuity of one consultant to assist them with their projects throughout the whole project planning to completion process.  We are often called upon by large developers to undertake assessments of their potential property purchases before they purchase as part of their Risk Management and Due Diligence.  This is important in their property purchases to determine any limitations to their proposed development plans for a property .  This often includes Ecological Limitations Reports according to the Biodiversity Assessment Method through the Biodiversity Offset Scheme to determine the potential number of Offset Credits required and their cost.

So when planning your next project why not give us a call or visit us at


What is the cost of an Environmental Site Assessment (Phase I ESA) ?

As Environmental Consultants we cover Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane including the entire state of each of these capitals.  Anderson Environmental Pty Ltd provides a range of Environmental Assessment Services including Ecological Assessments.  We are often asked questions regarding the Environmental Site Assessment process in relation to Site Contamination.  Often clients have not undertaken a SEPP55 Preliminary Site Investigation (sometimes termed a Stage 1 or Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment) before and are trying to gain an understanding of the process and the cost and any other items that may come up or need to be covered as part of this process. Note that SEPP 55 is for NSW however all states in Australia use the National Environmental Protection Measure (NEPM).  Often a Contamination Report is requested by Council as part of a Development Application and/or rezoning.  These assessments are also sometimes undertaken for Due Diligence Real Estate Transactions such as purchase or lease changes and are often for clean-up of contaminated sites such as former Service Stations, Dry Cleaners, Industrial Sites or sites with dumped materials etc etc.

The most common question we receive relates to the Cost of a Preliminary Site Investigation (PSI) or the more in depth Detailed Site Investigation (DSI). Here we examine the cost of the Preliminary Site Investigation and what it entails.

What is the cost of a Preliminary Site Investigation (PSI) ?

This depends on a number of factors.  The size of the site along with its location, previous use and potential for a complex history both of the site itself and nearby sites are factors which impact the cost of the assessment.  Some sites comprise farms with a simple site history over many decades while other sites represent industrial sites with complex site histories and many differing neighbouring sites which need to be considered which may have resulted in contamination to the site being assessed. While there are no set guidelines in Australia as as to the distance from the subject site to which neighbouring sites should be assessed a generally accepted standard from North American guidelines is within a 250m radius from your site boundary.  The required search results from simple sites can result in 20 pages while more complex sites can result in a few hundred pages of background historical data.  Industrial sites with complex layouts and multiple buildings and industrial processes require considerable time for the on site assessment and often have large amounts of records to examine.  We consider the site and work required to undertake a compliant report when we provide clients with a price for a Preliminary Site Investigation.   This is important as very often the report has to be relied upon by councils to approve a development application and sometimes lenders for loan applications. For sellers having an up to date report for sites with potential historical contamination risks provides potential buyers with an instant appreciation of any potential risks with the purchase.  This often places the seller at an advantage over other sellers of commercial or rural property.

What does a Preliminary Site Investigation Cover?

A Preliminary Site Investigation is a detailed review of the history of a site (using a combination of sources including aerial photos, governmental records, site walkovers and detailed site inspections, interviews, review of previous site and nearby reports, and other available information). This role of the PSI is to identify Areas of Potential Environmental Concern (APECs) which are parts of the site that may have environmental issues which may have resulted in contamination.  It also examines other sites nearby which may represent a risk to the subject site.

Sometimes clients ask for an “Elevated Preliminary Site Investigation ” which is often scoped to undertake some limited testing of some areas the client may have identified themselves as a potential risk or concern.  This does not constitute a a Detailed Site Investigation (DSI) however does add extra information for the Preliminary Site Investigation.

A thorough PSI can provide evidence of potential environmental liability due to contamination with a property.  Once you purchase a property which is contaminated then in almost all cases it is difficult or almost impossible to get the clean-up paid for by the former owner.

With coverage of the whole of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland and also experience in the USA our clients use our knowledge and experience to minimise their risk with property purchases.  Why not give us a call today to discuss you specific project or purchase.