The NSW Government has reviewed its approach to land acquisition and has made some important changes to make the process fairer, more transparent and more customer friendly.
The Government has responded to reviews of the land acquisition process by David Russell SC and the NSW Customer Service Commissioner, Michael Pratt.
While the reviews found that the law is fundamentally sound, they also made a number of recommendations to improve the acquisition process and providing fairer compensation for the disadvantage resulting from relocation from the principal place of residence.
In October 2016, the Government announced a range of improvements to strengthen the land acquisition system in NSW. These improvements comprehensively address the key issues identified by Mr Pratt and Mr Russell. The acquisition process is now more transparent, more balanced and easier for the resident to navigate.
Legislation supporting the measures not already implemented will be introduced before the end of 2016.
Snapshot of improvements
To ensure greater fairness, Government will introduce the following changes:
- A fixed six-month negotiation period providing people more time to consider their options and get expert advice
- Increased compensation for owner inconvenience and non-financial impacts up to a maximum of $75,000, including retrospective compensation for acquisitions backdated to February 2014.
- Enable landowners remaining in their properties after acquisition to do so without having to pay rent for up to 90 days.
- Provide the opportunity for a merits-based review of hardship applications
- Provide for reinstatement in specific cases (for example a place of worship or community centre)
- Provide for the right to repurchase if the land acquired was not ultimately required for the public purpose intended.
To make the acquisition process more customer friendly, Government will:
- Appoint a Personal Manager Acquisitions to coordinate all interactions between affected landowners and the acquiring authority – this manager will help affected landowners to find new homes or business premises, find new schools for children and other services to ease the experience of moving.
- Appoint a Place Manager to manage all general communication with affected landowners, their neighbours and communities.
This builds on previous reforms including a new Land Acquisition Information Guide published in December 2014 and the requirement introduced in early 2015 that government agencies make all necessary efforts to meet face-to face at the beginning of the process with affected landowners.
Other recommendations to be adopted by the Government include the creation of a new Property Acquisition Standards group to implement and monitor whole of government performance standards and ensure they are consistently applied by all agencies.
To increase transparency and ensure accountability, there will be a new requirement for acquiring authorities and the Valuer General to report key land acquisition data twice yearly to the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation.
For general enquiries, visit the land acquisitions website.
For enquiries regarding solatium, visit www.osr.nsw.gov.au/solatium or call 1300 303 581.