Have you ever wondered how to change the narrative from your project team saying “we’re always waiting on Land” to “wow, Land provided a ton of value to get this project across the finish line”?
Those of us in the Surface Land profession have always known the vital piece we play in the planning, development, and execution of a project. We also know that social risk is a material risk, and the human element can be a huge value or a devastating risk.
In years past, Land was often the last piece of a project before an application could be submitted and the project entered the construction phase. Perhaps it was because, in the past, negotiating a Land agreement or approval from the government was a quick and straight forward process that has resulted in the laissez-fare attitude that Land was inconsequential. Unfortunately, it has taken a few major projects to be derailed because of inadequate priority put on Land, or Engagement efforts, to gain the attention of project teams.
Technical risks – engineering design, safety, and construction – have always been considered and built into project plans. While the non-technical risks – access to land, stakeholder acceptance, and Indigenous inclusion – were often overlooked. This is changing because of societal pressures and heightened focus from regulators. Non-technical risks are the #1 hurdle facing projects today.
So, how does a Land professional contribute to mitigating risk and adding value?
1. Land & Social Risk Analysis: Upfront effort in the pre-planning stage of a project pays dividends in the end. Your Land representative or service provider can create a roadmap for the land acquisition, consultation, and engagement activities that can be included and built into a greater project plan. Bringing Land into preliminary planning meetings allows for discussion, education, and questions. Identifying risks early also means decreasing costs by getting ahead of potential issues.
2. Location Selection: Again, pre-planning here is key. Allowing your Land representative to give insight into where surface activities take place early in the process will decrease timelines and potential delays. Environmental considerations, social risks, as well as distance from existing development and residents are important factors to consider. Utilizing geospatial data and mapping is a huge benefit in this stage and provides a visual representation of the landscape, impacts, and geographic setting.
3. Regulatory: Whether compliance is handled by your regulatory team, a project engineer, or Land group, don’t keep silos around this critical piece. Key regulatory activities often handled by, or influenced by, Land include stakeholder records management for applications, third party approvals, stakeholder non-objection, Indigenous consultation, government relations and environmental approvals. Remember, non-technical risks are the #1 hurdle to projects today.
4. Connection & Education: Tapping into the value and importance of Land may require educating the rest of your project team. Keeping lines of communication open with your Land team allows them to make adjustments to an acquisition plan, know when, and how, consultation is best executed, or when to follow up on that third-party consent that typically takes longer to obtain. There are many little nuances in surface Land that, if not addressed, can impact timing and cost.
Your Land team will have insights into landowner’s concerns, issues, or questions. They can shed light on the regulatory framework, and how municipalities or surrounding communities may feel about the project. Allow your Land team the time to engage effectively with these stakeholders, and to bring back this knowledge to the broader project team. Take the opportunity to “walk in their shoes” to fully grasp the potential risks and opportunities of non-technical components of a project.
For more information about how we can help you on your next project, fill out our Needs Assessment!