Public Works/Land Compensation – Infrastructure vs Owner’s Use

Posted by Richard Hatch on October 14 2019 in News

The Public Works Act 1981 (Act) has evolved over a significant number of years to place more protection on the rights of the landowner. However, the Act still confers significant and wide ranging powers to ‘take land’ either by agreement, or compulsorily. Although, these powers are often exercised for ‘public works’, the Act is also utilised by councils and utility providers, amongst others, as illustrated by our examples below.

Recent Examples

We have been involved/instructed recently on several interesting matters in the public works/land compensation sphere. Most notably, one involving power transmission lines located over a property without the registered legal right to be installed on/over such property and another involving a re-design of an intersection, with such re-design being essential to allow for a safety upgrade of the road to occur. The power transmission line results in the requirement for an easement to be registered and inhibits potential site use. The re-design of the intersection results in the need to acquire a portion of our client’s property, which although area wise is not a significant amount of land compared to the overall site, the impacts of the portion of land being taken are disproportionate with the actual area of land proposed to be taken, with significant impacts from a practical and lifestyle aspect.

Purpose and Operation of the Act

Although these powers may be necessary at times to allow for the progression of roading projects and developments of towns and cities, along with the necessary infrastructure to support and maintain such growth and development, ultimately, they can result in the infringement of property rights. The Act seeks to balance these competing rights.

Although there are some high profile examples, such as the current City Rail Link and the recently completed Waterview Tunnel, unless you are the landowner with your property rights being infringed, or potentially infringed, these processes often occur behind closed doors and on a confidential basis.

Expertise in navigating the tension between an authority’s infrastructure growth demands and an owner’s property rights is critical in achieving fair resolution.

If you would like more information regarding the above, or have any questions, please contact us.

Author: Richard Hatch

This paper gives a general overview of the topics covered and is not intended to be relied upon as legal advice.