On 18 October 2016, the NSW Government announced landmark reforms to the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991 (Just Terms Act).
The Just Terms Act governs the process by which land can be compulsorily acquired for a public purpose and the amount of compensation to which dispossessed landowners are entitled.
Highlights of the proposed reforms include:
- Introducing a mandatory six-month negotiation and consultation period, including at least one face-to-face meeting with the landowner, before compulsory acquisition can commence.
- Renaming solatium to 'disadvantage resulting from relocation' and increasing the maximum payment from $27,235 to $75,000 (indexed to CPI) to better recognise the disruption associated with relocating from a principal place of residence.
- Streamlining interactions with the Valuer General to increase transparency and expedite the Valuer General's determination of compensation, while allowing more time for complex valuations.
- Requiring the Valuer General to provide a preliminary valuation report to landowners prior to making a final compensation determination to allow additional matters to be brought to the Valuer General's attention or clarify issues.
- Providing an avenue for merits review of decisions made by acquiring authorities in relation to hardship applications by landowners.
- Introducing the concept of reinstatement compensation for cases where there is a limited market for unique property types.
- Allowing landowners to remain in occupation of the acquired land for up to three months rent-free.
- Offering a first right of repurchase for dispossessed landowners if the acquired land is ultimately not required for the public purpose.
- Providing plain English (and multilingual) information guides.
- Giving central oversight of acquisition processes to the Minister for Finance, Services and Property and a 'Property Acquisition Standards Group' to be established.
These reforms answer a number of the recommendations made by David Russell SC in his 2014 review of the acquisition process and the recent citizen-focussed review by the Customer Service Commissioner.
Legislation to implement the reforms has been introduced to Parliament and further information can be found here.
To learn more, please contact: