Government compulsorily acquires land for new road – was the land owner properly compensated? Which case won?
Compulsory acquisition of part of private property for highway extension
The Roads and Traffic Authority of NSW had compulsorily acquired part of a rural property to provide for a new section of the Pacific Highway, therefore entitling the property owners to compensation under section 37 of the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991 (NSW) (“the Just Terms Act”).
On the acquired land, the owners operated a cattle stud farm, including facilities for insemination/embryo transfer and a dairy bails/show complex, while their residence was located on the remaining land.
The new highway extension meant that there would be a higher speed limit for traffic passing by the residence and that the new road would be wider, more elevated and 35 metres closer to the residence than it had previously been.
Property owners take legal action to argue for higher compensation
The parties were unable to reach agreement on the compensation to be paid under the Just Terms Act. While there was disagreement on many aspects, the primary dispute between them was whether the increased traffic noise meant that the residence was now uninhabitable and would need to be relocated further away from the new highway.
The property owners ultimately applied to the Land and Environment Court by way of objection to the amount of compensation the government had offered. It was up to the court to determine based on the evidence of both parties (including expert acoustic evidence) what compensation was appropriate in the circumstances.