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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 7 Hansard (1 July) . . Page.. 3104..

Land (Planning and Environment) Amendment Bill 2004 (No 2)

Mr Quinlan, pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.

MR QUINLAN (Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development, Business and Tourism, Minister for Sport, Racing and Gaming, and Acting Minister for Planning) (10.42): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Mr Speaker, I present the Land (Planning and Environment) Amendment Bill (No 2), which is designed to improve the operation of the consent to lease transfer provisions. The principal aim of these amendments is to stop speculative transfers of undeveloped residential land. As we all know, the ACT leasehold system from its inception has had as an underlying principle that speculating on sale of undeveloped land was not to be allowed. The issue of preventing speculative gains played a prominent part in the early debates in the federal parliament when the development of the national capital was being considered.

The orderly development of the city and the desire to ensure that leases are used to prevent speculation remain the underlying principles of the development of Canberra. However, amendments to legislation over the years have compromised the administrative ability to prevent speculation. In recent years publicity on speculative gains being made on the sale of land has highlighted that the current system does not effectively prevent a lessee from speculating through the sale of undeveloped land.

The planning minister indicated late in 2003 that he would be bringing forward a proposal to address the issue. On 9 December 2003 he gave the ACT Planning and Land Authority a statement of planning intent under section 14 of the Planning and Land Act 2002. That statement contained a legislative reform agenda including the requirement to address the issue of land speculation.

Members should note that these amendments do not affect lessees of destroyed properties who wish to sell their now vacant land. The clearest examples are provided by the hundreds of blocks left vacant by the January 2003 bushfire. Many owners have chosen to sell their land, often at prices much higher than they might have expected. Concern has been expressed about prices paid, with occasional implications that owners should not profit from this sale of raw land. In the cases of land sold following the destruction of property, the owners, or their predecessors, have already complied with the building requirement of their lease and have therefore already met the intention of section 180.

Their entitlement to profit from the value of the land is no less than that of a person who sells a house and land intact, providing they are pricing it according to the market value of both improvements and the land on which they stand. These are not speculative transfers but lessees exercising their right to profit from the improvements that they have made from their lease by complying with the building and development covenant.

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