Information to support the Lands Acquisition Act 1989

The Lands Acquisition Act 1989 (LAA) is an important component of the Commonwealth Property Management Framework and applies to most acquisitions and disposals of interests in land by the Commonwealth, including overseas land. The LAA also applies in relation to applications to access Commonwealth land for mineral exploration and mining activities. The Lands Acquisition Framework will provide additional information as required.

The Minister for Finance has portfolio responsibility for the administration of the LAA and has delegated a number of functions and powers under the LAA to officers within the Department of Finance and other Commonwealth entities.

The acquisition or disposal of an interest in land must be authorised under the LAA, either by the Minister for Finance or a delegated official, unless the transaction is exempt from the operation of the LAA. This authorisation must be obtained prior to executing a lease or an acquisition.

Delegations

The Minister has authority to delegate powers and functions under section 139 of the LAA.

The current LAA delegations can be accessed here:

Under the Lands Acquisition Delegation, the Minister has delegated to certain officials the power to certify that an acquisition of an interest in land would amount to a 'standard commercial transaction' in circumstances where the interest in land is not otherwise 'available in the market'. 

See Guidance to assist delegates in considering whether to exercise the Minister's right to issue a certificate under section 40(6) of the LAA.

Acquisition by Agreement

Most Commonwealth acquisitions of interests in land occur by agreement. This will generally occur where the interest in land is 'available in the market' as defined in the LAA. 

Compulsory Acquisition

The LAA provides power to the Commonwealth to compulsorily acquire land or an interest in land in Australia for a public purpose. A public purpose is a purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws.

The LAA prescribes the steps that the Commonwealth must follow to compulsorily acquire land. It provides a legal framework designed to protect an owner's interests when the Commonwealth compulsorily acquires an interest in land.

The Guide to Acquisitions under the LAA has been developed to provide guidance on the compulsory acquisition process.

Compensation

A holder of an interest in land can claim compensation from the Commonwealth as soon as the land has been acquired by compulsory process. The basic principle is that the amount of compensation should be just.

Specific factors to be considered in assessing compensation include:

  • the market value of the property acquired;
  • special value to the owner;
  • if only part of the property is acquired - whether the value of the remainder is reduced;
  • disturbance costs - losses and reasonable expenses directly resulting from the acquisition, for example, removal expenses and resettlement costs;
  • reasonable legal or professional costs - such as to help the property owner understand the acquisition procedures or to provide documents required by the Commonwealth.

Guidance notes for completing a claim for compensation can be accessed here: Section 48 Notice and a Guide to Acquisitions under the LAA.

Forms relating to compensation can be accessed here:

Mineral Exploration and Mining

The LAA governs the approval process for access to Commonwealth land for the purposes of mineral exploration and mining.

If you are considering applying to access Commonwealth land for the purposes of mineral exploration or mining activities, you should engage with the relevant state or territory agency with responsibility for regulating mining regarding the appropriate mining activity permit(s).

To apply for access to Commonwealth land, please complete the Access Application Form, and send it to LAA@finance.gov.au.

Once submitted, your application may be reviewed by a number of Commonwealth agencies, including, but not limited to, the primary Commonwealth land user (this could be the Department of Defence if your request is for access to a Defence base); the Attorney-General’s Department for requirements under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth); the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water for requirements under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth); and the Department of Industry, Science and Resources.

Please note that Finance’s review process is only consultative. It remains the responsibility of the relevant mining company to ensure that it meets Commonwealth legislative requirements and access conditions. 

Disposals 

The LAA provides the legal basis for disposing of interests in land. For disposals of real property (i.e. land or land and buildings), entities should also refer to the Commonwealth Property Disposal Policy, Resource Management Guide 500 – Commonwealth Property Management Framework and RMG 501 – Lands Acquisition Framework.


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