Landmark reforms for compulsory acquisition of land

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Providing an avenue for merits review of decisions made by acquiring authorities in relation to hardship applications by landowners.
  6. Introducing the concept of reinstatement compensation for cases where there is a limited market for unique property types.
  7. Allowing landowners to remain in occupation of the acquired land for up to three months rent-free.
  8. Offering a first right of repurchase for dispossessed landowners if the acquired land is ultimately not required for the public purpose.
  9. Providing plain English (and multilingual) information guides.
  10. 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:

Nicholas Brunton

I ask myself: What would I want if I was a client? Then I deliver.

Nicholas Brunton Partner

Nicholas is one of Australia's leading environmental lawyers. He is a trusted adviser to his clients in all areas of land use and development, planning, valuation and compulsory acquisition, environmental, mining and natural resources law.

In addition to degrees in law and geography, Nicholas has a PhD in planning and environmental law from the University of Sydney. His expertise is recognised by his appointment to the Board of Water NSW, the advisory Board of the Macquarie University Centre for Environmental Law, and the Advisory Board of Australian Centre for Climate Change and Environment Law at the University of Sydney. He is also a Fellow of the Australian Property Institute, lectures at the University of Sydney and University of New South Wales and has over 30 peer reviewed publications on a wide range of topics in environmental, planning and valuation law and environmental economics.

Nicholas's clients include a large number of government agencies along with major financial institutions, mining and construction companies, property developers and fund managers.

He has extensive experience in all forms of planning and environmental litigation in the Land and Environment Court and Court of Appeal. In particular, he is a recognised leading practitioner in all aspects of valuation and compensation law and acts for a wide range of State Government agencies and landowners, including acting in over 100 compensation and valuation cases in the Land and Environment Court and Court of Appeal.

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Tom White

I strive to be our clients' best ally. I'm committed to working closely with clients to deliver excellence.

Tom White Senior Associate

Tom specialises in environment and planning law and acts for a range of government authorities and private clients. Tom is an experienced litigator, having acted in a range of planning, environmental and compulsory acquisition cases.

Tom has experience in a variety of matters across a range of areas of law including compulsory acquisition, environmental and planning litigation, planning law, environmental law, pollution and contamination in NSW, Victoria and WA.

Tom acts for a range of Commonwealth, State and local government authorities, as well as private developers and landowners, assisting his clients in complex land transactions involving contaminated land and associated environmental issues.

Tom is also an experienced litigator, acting in a range of compulsory acquisition, planning and environmental disputes in the Land and Environment Court and Supreme Court for private clients and government authorities.

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Anneliese Korber

I believe in a collaborative and dynamic team achieving excellence for our clients.

Anneliese Korber Special Counsel

Anneliese specialises in environment and planning law and acts for a range of government authorities along with major corporations, developers and financial institutions. She has extensive transactional experience and is also an experienced litigator.

Anneliese specialises in environment and planning law acting for both a range of government authorities including Sydney Trains, RailCorp, Roads and Maritime Services and Transport for NSW and major corporations, developers and financial institutions.

Anneliese has extensive transactional experience, including advising on planning requirements for major projects and numerous other major developments under the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979 (NSW). She also advises her clients on all aspects of contaminated land including purchase, disposal and ownership along with drafting remediation agreements, remediation contracts and negotiating with the EPA.

Anneliese is an experienced litigator, acting in or advising on all forms of environmental and planning disputes. She represents clients in the Land and Environment Court and Court of Appeal, covering matters relating to planning, compulsory acquisitions, licensing and enforcement issues, clean up and other notices, and various other matters under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 NSW.

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