Landmark review of compulsory acquisition kept secret by Baird government

Posted on 21/09/2019 by

Liz Slakey with her children Luca Slakey 8 (left), Pippi Slakey 2 (2nd from right) and Declan Slakey 5 (right) in the backyard of their Haberfield home they are set to lose.A landmark review of the system whereby private property is forcibly acquired to make way for major infrastructure projects was handed to the NSW government two years ago, but the report is being kept secret.
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The review by David Russell, SC, was commissioned in May 2012 by then finance minister Greg Pearce.

“It is well known that compulsory acquisition of private land and its impacts have been an ongoing area of stakeholder concern for many years,” Mr Pearce said at the time.

Mr Russell was due to report back by the end of 2012, but on Monday a spokesman for the NSW minister for finance, services and property, Dominic Perrottet, said it was not handed to the government until February 2014.

The spokesman said some of its recommendations have been introduced after being endorsed by cabinet the following August.

These were introducing a plain English explanation of the compulsory acquisition process and an improved meeting process between land owners and acquiring agencies.

Other recommendations – details of which the government will not disclose – were considered by an inter-departmental committee in 2014 and 2015.

“The government is yet to make a final decision on the inter-departmental committee’s comments,” he said.

“A decision around the report’s publication will be made once the Government has concluded its consideration of the report.”

It follows revelations that the government is resuming hundreds of millions of dollars worth of private property for infrastructure projects using a system it was warned three years ago is unfair to landowners.

A parliamentary committee chaired by Liberal MP Matt Kean issued the warning as part of a report calling for an overhaul of the compulsory acquisition and land valuation system in early 2013.

The committee recommended changing the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act to give landholders greater negotiating rights, more accountability from the acquiring agency and a more affordable appeal process.

But it has not implemented key recommendations of the report while forging ahead with forced resumption of homes for projects including the Westconnex, NorthConnex, Sydney Metro and the Sydney light rail.

Many landholders have complained they are being given compensation hundreds of thousand of dollars below market value, amid the recent Sydney property boom.

Labor’s roads spokeswoman Jodi McKay slammed the refusal to release the report as “a gross breach of trust” which “shows the clandestine levels to which this government will stoop in order to get things done”.

“Four years ago a government commissioned review examined why compulsory acquisition wasn’t working, yet this government has suppressed that report,” she said.

“Now we learn it has completely ignored a parliamentary committee recommending an overhaul of the acquisition system.”

“Meanwhile the government is pressing ahead with the largest forced acquisition program in the history of this state.”

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