Explanation of the Compulsory Acquisition

Today, as our population continues to grow, so do our needs for new transport links and the development of power stations that exploit renewable energy.

However, the growth of these government projects inevitably brings with it the constitutional compulsory acquisitions of property. 

Compulsory acquisition is a constitutional right of the Commonwealth in which homeowners have a little say in so it is mandatory that you know how it works, what your rights are and how you can get fair compensation in the end.

What is Compulsory acquisition

When a government department or institution obtains privately-owned land or property for the purposes of building new infrastructure or expansion of existing networks, this process is called compulsory acquisition.

For the purpose of facilitating the government to acquire privately-held land for public purposes, the land of 1894 was created. “Public purpose” as defined by the act, alludes to the acquisition of land for putting educational institutions, housing, slum clearance, and rural planning or formation of cities. The term “government” alludes to the central government if the motive for the acquisition is for the union and for all other purposes it refers to the state government.

The acquisition doesn’t always have to be initiated by the government alone. Local authorities, societies registered under the societies registration act and 1860 and co-operative societies can also acquire land for development through the government. 

2. The government doesn’t always want all your land

When most of us think of compulsory acquisitions, large infrastructures often come to our mind which will, in the end, take all of our private lands.

However, this may not always be true. In lots of cases, the government may take over a part of your lands such as an easement, driveway or garage. This is most common is rural acreages where there is less infrastructure.

Sometimes, the acquisition can be the ending of and ownership right of the property.

For instance, you can be prevented from undertaking renovations or any building work on your property and these include, installing an antenna, renovating a building above a certain height and digging below. This can also stop you from installing a pool or undertaking water drilling activities, building a shed or barn if you live in rural land.

In some circumstances may need temporary access through your property in order to improve the property of land which will be used for public service.

3. You have the right to appeal

After receiving the pre-acquisition declaration, you have 28 days to make an appeal in writing to the minister of Finance and Deregulation. If you have decided to make an appeal then you should always seek professional legal advice in order to build a strong case.

Within 28 days of receiving the appeal, the government will send you a reply with reasons for the decisions they’ve made.

If your appeal has been denied, you can also appeal the Administrative Appeals tribunal which will review the commonwealth’s decision. Urgent acquisitions are the only exception to these appealing processes.

4. Acquisition process

Despite the fact that the commonwealth’s rights are set out in the constitution, the process itself is set out in the Lands Acquisition Act 1989.

  • You must be informed at once of the commonwealth’s decision via Notice of Intention to acquire land.
  • You have the right to ask an independent body to access the Commonwealth’s decision to acquire your interest
  • You have a right to seek professional legal advice and this will be paid by the government.
  • You have a right to be compensated on just terms.

Although this is a basic process, sometimes it can vary from state to state.

Before beginning the acquisition stage some states and territories implement the so-called “public acquisition overlay” and because of this residents are often given a longer period of consultation rather than the 6-month notification period.

5. Compensation

Within the 14-day period of receiving the Notice of Acquisition, the acquiring authority needs to make an offer in writing to every person in whose land he has an interest. The offer must include a copy of a certificate of evaluation on which the acquiring authority has based its offer.

The good thing about these evaluations is that they are undertaken by your state’s relevant Valuer general and are based on the highest and best use instead of the existing one.

You are entitled to this under section 51 in the Constitution and is known as the “fair market value”. This is often the case with large infrastructure projects that have a tendency to bring more business, more jobs and a trend of gentrification to the surrounding neighbourhoods.

As said before these valuations are based on market value and you would surely get a better sale by selling them privately. However, you don’t have the right to sell your property during the compulsory acquisition process.

6. Emergency

 Keep in mind that during times of natural disasters like bushfires and hurricanes, your land can be compulsorily acquitted for reasons such as medical centres and refugee camps.

Compulsory acquisitions of property are processes that should be handled carefully. Always know your rights and never rush things and as said before, seek professional legal advice in order to get the best possible compensation for your land.

Explanation of the Compulsory Acquisition

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