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There’s no end to the songs involving roads- Road to Nowhere, Take Me Home Country Roads and Highway to Hell, to name just a few.

Countless hours are whittled away driving on roads throughout the State- with the condition of many of those roads being less than ideal. There is now a focus on infrastructure spending throughout the Australia, with a particular focus on roads. In South Australia these projects range from the large, such as the North-South Corridor (ANSC) Project, the Port Wakefield Overpass and Highway Duplication Project and the sealing of the Strzelecki Track, to smaller projects such as intersection upgrades through the installation of traffic lights or roundabouts.

These projects are generally positive but they may come at a cost. In order to make way for these various roadworks, land and businesses are often negatively impacted by the roadworks, especially where their land is compulsorily acquired. This can be particularly significant for those with farming land, as it is not uncommon for the acquisition to split a single landholding in two, making the farming operations more difficult, as well as resulting in quality, productive farming land being lost. So what can you do?

The compulsory acquisition of land in South Australia is governed by the Land Acquisition Act and Regulations. The Act sets out the scheme under which a relevant authority, such as State Government bodies or local councils, can acquire land. The purposes for which land can be acquired is set out in a range of other legislation. In addition to having an ability to acquire land, a relevant authority can also take steps such as placing easements or rights of way over a property.

When it intends to acquire the land, the Authority must give a notice of its intention to do so. A person who receives a notice can make a request that the land not be acquired, although the grounds for doing so are fairly limited (such as that the acquisition is not necessary for the work proposed).

If the acquisition proceeds, the owner of the land is generally entitled to compensation. This includes:

  1. if the property is a principal place of residence, a “solatium” payment can be claimed (being 10% of the market value of the land or a maximum of $50,000, whichever is the lesser amount); and
  2. $10,000 is also available to compensate home owner occupiers for any professional costs arising out of the acquisition. This includes legal costs and valuation costs.

Determining the compensation payable in respect of rural land and properties can be a far more complicated process than for solely residential properties. The acquisition of even a small parcel of land can have a significant impact on the way in which the land has to be farmed (including potentially having to do things like re-arranging paddocks), the value of the other parcels of land if it forms part of a larger landholding, and the profitability of the business. There may also be other losses caused the construction of the road, such as from the dust created.

It is therefore vital to obtain proper advice from the very start of the acquisition process to ensure that your rights are adequately protected.

Enjoy the roads- but don’t forget the potential costs involved.

This article was published in The Stock Journal on Thursday 14 April 2021.