Page 2078 - Week 06 - Thursday, 8 June 2017

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With this in mind, I turn to the purpose of this bill and the key amendments. Let me set the current scene. Once land has been acquired by a compulsory process, the landowner—and other people who hold an interest in that land—are entitled to compensation. The amount of compensation is determined under division 6.2 of the act. The process for effecting a payment of compensation is currently triggered by the interest holder—such as the person whose lands have been acquired—making a claim under section 56 of the act. If the interest holder does not make a claim then no payment of compensation occurs.

Currently there is no time limit for them to make a claim. It is possible for land to be acquired under the act, but no follow up claim for compensation for years afterwards—or indeed indefinitely. If no claim is made, it is not currently possible for the territory to intervene. The territory cannot take statutory action to bring the compensation matter to a resolution.

In effect, this means the territory can have a liability for compensation of an uncertain amount for an indefinite period. This is not in anyone’s interest. It is contrary to the need for timely payment of compensation to the interest holder, the efficient administration of territory finances and the efficient administration of the Lands Acquisition Act.

I would also note that the amount of compensation includes any legal or other professional costs reasonably incurred by the person in relation to the acquisition. As the act currently stands, these costs could potentially increase for an indefinite period, to the cost of the territory. This potential for delay is also not consistent with one of the principles behind the making of the act, and that is the completion of the acquisition of land expeditiously.

The amendments made in this bill address the issue in the following ways. First, the proposed measure in the bill applies when three years have elapsed since the acquisition of the land and a claim for compensation has still not been made. The bill makes it possible for the executive, after three years, to make an offer of compensation to the person whose interest in the land has been acquired. Importantly, the making of an offer by the executive in this circumstance has a particular effect. If the executive makes such an offer, the person whose interest has been acquired will lose the right to initiate the compensation process by making a claim for compensation under section 56 of the act.

Second, the proposed measure facilitates the compensation process because it permits the executive to effectively “kick start” a compensation process with a formal offer of compensation. Once the offer is made, the interest holder will have the ability to assess the offer and the means by which the compensation amount was determined. They can either accept the offer or put forward an alternative compensation amount. Let me reassure you, Madam Speaker, there is no specific limit on the consideration of the offer of the executive. The interest holder has ample time to assess the offer and to do so in the light of any necessary professional valuation or legal advice.

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