Inquiry into land acquisition

REVIEW: Farmer Andrew Nicolson, who lost his property to the federal government's Land Acquisition Act in 2013, is hopeful the inquiry will speedline the process.
REVIEW: Farmer Andrew Nicolson, who lost his property to the federal government's Land Acquisition Act in 2013, is hopeful the inquiry will speedline the process.

An inquiry into the federal government's controversial Compulsory Land Acquisition Act has been announced following years of lobbying by Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey.

The Act has affected a number of families in the region over the past 30 years, with many being thrown off their properties for the expansion of the Cultana Range.

Last year the Whyalla News reported that the Nicolson family were still seeking justice six years after their Roopena Station property was compulsorily acquired by the Department of Defence for the Cultana Army Base expansion.

After losing out in negotiations for the acquisition of their land, the Nicolsons were forced to wait nine years to hear what the government were prepared to pay for the property.

Grey MP Rowan Ramsey said it was nine years too long for that family, and that Finance Minister Mathais Cormann had agreed an inquiry should be held sometime this year.

"Nine years in which management was compromised, important decisions deferred and a period when for all intents and purposes they could not have disposed of their properties if they wished to," he said.

"We can only try and understand the pressure this put on their families and businesses.

"Finally the acquisition took place in 2013 and yet here we are today, more than six years on and for most of the former owners they have still not been presented with a compensation package they are prepared to accept."

Mr Ramsey said the government process surrounding the acquisition of land for the Cultana Range was 'an appalling way to treat honest law abiding citizens and needs to be fixed'.

"I strongly believe the system should be more generous to former owners, should be much simpler and certainly, much quicker. The current system is expensive and a lawyers picnic," he said.

"I have proposed the government be required to make a regulated offer significantly in excess of the market value on day one."

Mr Ramsey will be making a submission to the inquiry and and recommended that families affected by the Act in the past also contribute.

"Twenty years for a settlement is simply ridiculous," he said.

Fourth generation farmer Andrew Nicolson said he strongly supported the idea of an inquiry and that his family would 'absolutely' be making a submission based on their experience.

"We accept that compulsory land acquisition has to occur in civil society but it has to be done a lot better than the way it's being done," he said.

"Making a submission is not going to change anything for us but one hopes it's going to make the process better for other landowners who become dispossessed."

Mr Nicolson agreed that the government should be required to make an offer above market value for properties, saying any way of streamlining the process and ensuring owners get good value for their land is key.

"You lose a lot of time in your life going through it, we're still going through the legal process which is slow and expensive," he said.

"While waiting for the government's offer you lose value in the land and you lose income."

Mr Nicolson thanked Rowan Ramsey for supporting the family over the years and for lobbying relentlessly for the inquiry.