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Public Acquisition Overlays and Compulsory Acquisitions - What does it all mean?

Compulsory Acquisition: 23 March 2019

Many of us would remember the great Australian film The Castle where the hero Darryl Kerrigan successfully took on a big airport corporation trying to compulsorily acquire his land for an extension. At the end of the day, Darryl won the case and the acquisition did not go ahead. Unfortunately, in the real world, compulsory acquisition of land interests takes place all the time and land owners like Darryl Kerrigan are normally powerless to prevent them.

Statutory authorities like VicRoads, water authorities, municipal councils and other government departments and instrumentalities often have powers to acquire interests in your land without your consent. An acquisition may involve acquiring the title to all or part of your land. On other occasions, easements or other interests might be acquired so that the authority can put in an underground pipeline or an overhead electricity line, or similar.

While you may not be able to prevent a compulsory acquisition proceeding, you have some important rights under relevant legislation. Before land is acquired, there is often a Public Acquisition Overlay (PAO) put in place.

The effect of a PAO may be to prevent further development on your land if seen to be contrary to the future use of the land contemplated by the PAO. Therefore the PAO may block any activity that requires a planning permit, or maybe even the ability to sow a crop. The overlays are sometimes in place for years or decades before the land is compulsorily acquired. While the PAO may impact your ongoing use of the land, the effect may be greater if you have any intention of selling your property since the value of the land may be greatly diminished.

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