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Tuesday, 26 November 1974
Page: 2738

The PRESIDENT -Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-

In introducing this new legislation affecting land prices in the vicinity of declared growth centres in the Northern Territory, the Government is seeking to provide some form of control over land prices as a part of an overall planned program of rational urban development which has particular application to Darwin. Speculative increases in land prices on the outskirts of Darwin have been evident in recent years and in the process of expansion of urban leasehold systems in the Northern Territory where the reserve price system applies, it is essential to remove the speculative content from acquisition costs so that the public can secure land eventually at reasonable prices.

My colleague, the former Minister for the Northern Territory, Mr Enderby, outlined in a comprehensive Press statement on 1 5 February a co-ordinated program of urban development in the Northern Territory, including the provision of this type of legislation. At that stage, South Australia had the Murray New Town Act of 1972 operating and other States have since considered similar legislation. Because the provisions of this new legislation, which will apply only to the Northern Territory, modify some of the provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act which applies throughout Australia, it is not considered appropriate that the modifications should be brought in by way of a Northern Territory ordinance but rather they should be brought in by way of a Federal Act through this Parliament as companion legislation to the Lands Acquisition Act itself.

The purpose of this Bill is to provide legislative authority to stabilise the prices of land in the Northern Territory required, or likely to be required, in connection with urban development. This process is regarded as an important aspect of large scale acquisition by government for urban development and is designed to prevent speculative rises in the market value of land held in private ownership. The area of the greatest interest in the Northern Territory is the general area within a radius of about 96.5 kilometres of Darwin in which there is a fairly large number of undeveloped and unused 64.75-hectare and 129.5-hectare freehold blocks granted about 100 years ago when South Australia had control of the Northern Territory. Some of this freehold is still held in the names of the original grantees, some is held in the name of descendants of the original grantees while some have passed, over the years, through the hands of various purchasers at ever increasing prices. In areas surrounding other towns in the Territory the impact will not be so great in that the areas adjacent to those towns are either Crown land or are held under rural leasehold tenure such as pastoral or agricultural leases.

The Bill provides for the declaration initially of an investigation area in which persons authorised by the Minister may carry out investigations on private land to determine its suitability for urban development. The period of investigation may be any time up to a maximum of 2 years. When investigations are complete, the Bill provides that the Minister may declare a development area in which all land may be the subject of acquisition under the Lands Acquisition Act within a specified period not exceeding 10 years. Provision is made for the Registrar-General for the Northern Territory to note on all titles affected the declaration of a development area.

This will have the effect of drawing to the attention of those purchasing land that the land may be acquired by the Government for urban development.

The Bill also contains provisions which restrict development of the land- that is, new buildings or major improvements except where authorised by the Minister, or any major change in the use of the land from that use applying at the date of declaration of the development area. This is designed to curtail attempts for speculative reasons to improve the land or put it to optimum use because of the declared urban development. In the cases of financial hardship occurring, there is a provision which permits the Minister to take appropriate action for the acquisition of the land under the Lands Acquisition Act. In any development area where the Government moves to acquire property under the Lands Acquisition Act, the provisions of that Act will in effect be modified so as to provide for compensation to be paid on a basis which will have regard to-

(i)   the base value or market value of the land as at the date of declaration of the investigation area;

(ii)   a value increase factor determined by the Valuer-General;

(iii)   any additional improvements approved by the Minister added since the date of declaration of the development area.

The value factor or factors which will allow for normal increases or decreases in the value of land will be fixed by the Valuer-General having regard to information available and be set out in the form of a determination and lodged with the Minister. This percentage increase or decrease will be notified to the owner by the Minister and be accepted in a court or arbitration determination as the adjustment to be made to the base value at declaration, by reason of the time lapse until the acquisition date.

The normal provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act will generally apply, except that the effective date for the base value will be the date of the first declaration of the investigation area. The provisions concerning rights of appeal will still apply as regards the base value. These will be on adjustment, however, by a value factor determined by the Valuer-General to provide for a normally expected increase rather than a speculative increase resulting from knowledge of the development itself. In view of comments during debate on this Bill in the House of Representatives, to the effect that its provisions should be referred to the Legislative Assembly for the Northern Territory, I take the opportunity to clarify the reasons for the legislation being dealt with as a Federal Act. Because the provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act- a Federal Act- are being modified in clause 13 and further, because the Minister for the Northern Territory derives his powers to acquire land in the Northern Territory through the Northern Territory Administration Act, it is obvious that Federal legislation must be enacted to cover this new initiative of the Government. When the Bill was first introduced in the House of Representatives in April this year before the election, copies were provided to the then Northern Territory Legislative Council for its information. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Durack) adjourned.

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