Work on soil remediation at the former Highfield Square mall property will have to wait until a new downtown centre is built, according to a Moncton official.

The City of Moncton bought the property last summer for $12.5 million, with the vendor taking responsibility for cleaning up the soil.

The company in charge of the demolition and remediation is Talister.

Steve Trueman has retired as the city solicitor, but he continues to handle the Highfield Square property file.

He says soil testing and other minor work has been completed, but more extensive work won't go ahead right away.

"One of the complicating factors is for the consultant in this case, is the fact that we don't quite yet have a green light on development of the centre," he said.

"Once the centre gets that green light and whoever the successful proponent is, has reached a point where they want to begin work, they'll actually be working in concert with the consultant and the former owner of the property."

Moncton wants to build a $107-million sports and entertainment centre on the downtown parcel of land.

However, there are still questions surrounding funding for the facility.

The former Alward government committed funds just before the 2014 election to the entertainment complex.

However, the new Gallant government is in the process of reviewing the funding proposal before handing over $24 million in provincial tax dollars.

Federal Conservative MP Robert Goguen said the federal government is willing to help Moncton pay for infrastructure projects in the city, which would free up the city to divert $24 million to the sports and entertainment complex.

Contamination discovered on site

Back in 2012, Trueman said some level of contamination is almost inevitable in downtown.

"It was determined — not surprisingly given its proximity to the CN Rail line, for example — that the soils are contaminated. There's some heavy metals, hydrocarbons, and things like that," he said.

Trueman said with no deal on the horizon, the land will stay as it is for the time being.

"I think its fair to say that the remediation work, the management of the materials has to wait until development of the centre begins," he said.

"So yes, we won't see much happening on site even though work is ongoing in the assessment of the condition of the soils and things like that. But visible work won't be obvious until such time as the development gets a green light."

Trueman said remediation will begin if a deal is signed to develop the site.

"The one thing I can add is that once that development is underway the environmental work will be done very early in the process probably within … the first three to six months of development the environmental issues ought to be resolved," he said.