What To Do When You Face Compulsory Land Acquisition


You’ve made memories in it; you’ve raised your children in it; you’ve laughed, loved, and cried in it. It’s your home—and now the Government wants to take it away—to build a wider road?

Compulsory land acquisition. It’s the reality for Australians all over the land, as an uptick in the population causes a demand for wider roads, more train lines, and bigger airports. In 2016 alone, three states—NSW, Victoria, and Queensland—spent more than 30 billion dollars on infrastructure development, according to financial planner James Gerrard in his 8 October article for The Australian.

Before you discover your home lies right on the planned route for a new highway, take some time to look at your options should you come face-to-face with compulsory land acquisition.

The Steps in the Compulsory Land Acquisition Process
  • Notification: Most of the time, government agencies who plan a project will notify property owners early in the planning process. Unless the project is an emergency, you’ll have several months to plan your response.
  • Assessing the value of your property: When the government first comes after your home, they have to determine what your home is worth. This process, called valuation, requires both you and the government agency to hire a registered valuer. After both sides decide on a value, negotiations on the price begin.
  • The appeal process: If you and the government agency cannot agree on a price, you can appeal the case. First, the case goes to the Valuer-General. If the Valuer-General’s price doesn’t appear fair, you have the right to go to court. Know, though, that taking your case to the courts will be an expensive process, since you’ll need to hire a knowledgeable lawyer. Though taking your case to court doesn’t guarantee success, you’ll have a better chance to win with a lawyer who has years of experience in compulsory land acquisition.
Know the Federal Compulsory Acquisition Laws

Put into effect by Australia’s constitution, compulsory acquisition can occur at the behest of either the federal, state, territorial, or local government. To learn more about the federal laws that govern the process, look at Section 51 (xxxi) in the Constitution of Australia.

Know the Compulsory Acquisition Laws in Your State

Because compulsory land acquisition laws differ across state lines, it pays to learn what the laws are in your state before you even purchase a property, particularly one in an area that is undergoing rapid development. Look closely at the zoning that governs the neighbourhood. If the zoning permits roads, railways, industrial plants, or airports, you might want to look elsewhere for a home. Look at government brochures and websites, as well as news reports that detail plans for future development in your area.

On the other hand, some state governments have enacted laws that require them to compensate homeowners for more than just the price of their property. These states compensate property owners for both the hassle of moving and for relocation costs.

How Compulsory Acquisition Affects Real-Life Australians

It’s not like it happens in Hollywood, Australians have discovered when they go up against a government land grab. In the movies, the small-town lawyer pits her wits against the government’s might and comes out on top—after some scene-stealing drama, of course.

In real life, it’s not that easy. In Queensland, ABC’s Charlie McKillop reports that the nation’s Defence Department plans to snatch up wide swaths of cattle grazing land. All so Australia’s finest can train alongside their colleagues from Singapore. The precedent, says the farmers’ representative, Tony Mahar, is “worrying,” since farmers already have lost ground to urbanisation and mining.

Like robbing Peter to pay Paul, it would seem. If the nation’s strength lies in its ability to produce food, it makes no sense to the farmers that the nation’s Defence Department, sworn to protect the nation’s backbone, would take away that very ability.

In Melbourne, historic homes have become the fodder for progress once again as the Metro Tunnel expands into North Melbourne and South Yarra, reports Clay Lucas in The Age.com.

Homeowners feel powerless as the half-billion-dollar land acquisition for the project steamrolls ahead. After all, in 2013, homeowners along the east-west link of the city’s public transportation system faced the same thing. What, then, are their options?

What Are Your Options If You Face Compulsory Acquisition?

Help won’t come at the hands of an amateur, Gerrard advises. Unlike in the movies, real-life homeowners need to hire expert land valuers and lawyers who have studied the law in depth. Homeowners can do some of the legwork themselves, though, such as tracking down as many facts as it can from the governmental authority who has proposed the land grab, as well as any additional information that can help their lawyers and land valuers fight for an alternative—or if that’s not a possibility—at least for just compensation.

Help certainly won’t come at the hands of the government entity responsible for the acquisition, as the Victoria farmers soon discovered. The government’s stated goal, they say, is to help the general population. When billions of dollars are at stake, though, one has to wonder just whose interest is foremost in officials’ minds.

For that reason, always seek professional help with experience in both state and federal law. Even though the community might improve, and the government authority may compensate you for the land’s value, compulsory land acquisition still leaves emotional scars, especially if you have poured your sweat and tears into the home over the years.

To learn more about how compulsory acquisition laws may affect your property value—and your life—contact a property valuation professional today.