How Compulsory Acquisition of Land Works in Australia

Compulsory acquisition of land is the process by which the Australian government can acquire private land for public purposes with or without just compensation paid to the landowner. The most common reason for acquisition is for infrastructure projects such as roads, railways or airports. Acquisitions can also be made for defence purposes, or for the development of national parks or other environmental reserves.

Compulsory acquisition can be extremely stressful, especially if you have no intention of selling your land or property. This article will go over how compulsory acquisition of land works in Australia and what you can do if your land is being acquired. 

What is Compulsory Acquisition?

Compulsory acquisition of land is the process by which the government can gain an interest in land anywhere in Australia. There is a process that must be followed for acquisition to occur legally .The first step in the process is for the relevant government department to identify the need for the acquisition. This need must be for a public purpose, and the department must be satisfied that acquisition is the best way to meet that need.

Once the need is identified, the department must give notice of its intention to acquire the land to the owner or owners. This notice must set out the grounds for acquisition and the compensation that will be paid to those whose land will be acquired.

Land owners then have 28 days to object to the acquisition. If they do not object, or if their objection is unsuccessful, the acquisition will proceed and they will be paid the compensation that was specified in the prior notice.

Generally, land owners can occupy their land for a minimum of 6 months once the acquisition process has been initiated. 

: How is Compensation Calculated?

Compensation is calculated on the basis of the value of the land as if it were not being acquired, taking into account its current use, potential use and any other relevant factors. The owner is also entitled to compensation for any improvements they have made to the land, such as buildings or fencing. 

Can Acquisition Be Appealed?

Typically an appeal in writing can be made to the minister for infrastructure within 28 days after receiving a pre-acquisition declaration. Landowners will generally receive a response within 28 days of the minister receiving their written appeal. Unfortunately, appeals against compulsory acquisition of land rarely secure the desired outcome. Once the process of acquisition has been initiated, it generally won’t be stopped. 

: What Happens If No Objection is Made? 

If land owners do not object to the acquisition, the matter will be referred to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a decision. The Tribunal will consider the evidence and make a determination on whether the acquisition is justified and whether the compensation offered is fair.

The Tribunal’s decision is final and binding, and if they decide in favour of the acquisition, the land will be acquired and the owner paid the compensation that was determined.

Do Land Owners Have Any Other Options For Appeal?

In addition to lodging a written appeal, land owners have the right to make a complaint against compulsory acquisition of land to the commonwealth ombudsman or make an application to have the decision reviewed under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977. 

Compulsory acquisition is a powerful tool that can be used by the government to acquire land for public purposes. However, compulsory acquisition can often be disruptive and detrimental to land owners. Land owners should always seek legal help if their land is being acquired in order to secure the maximum compensation and best outcome.

Show More