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. The LAA also applies in relation to applications to access Commonwealth land for mineral exploration and mining activities.
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 Finance Minister or a delegated official, unless the transaction is exempt from the operation of the LAA.
The Minister has authority to delegate powers and functions under section 139 of the LAA.
The current LAA delegations can be accessed here:
- Lands Acquisition Delegation 2020 (No. 2).
- Template - Report on Exercise of Powers Under Lands Acquisition Delegations 2020.
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. However, the Finance Minister is able to facilitate the acquisition of interests not in the market by certifying that an acquisition is a “standard commercial transaction”.
In reliance on the LAA, the Commonwealth is able to compulsorily acquire land or an interest in land anywhere in Australia for public purposes. 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. The LAA also provides a legal framework designed to protect an owner's interests when the Commonwealth acquires an interest in land.
The Commonwealth and You - Compulsory Acquisition of Land brochure has been developed to provide guidance on the compulsory acquisition process.
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.
Forms relating to compensation can be accessed here:
- Section 67 - Claims for Compensation for Compulsory Acquisition of an Interest in Land - entitlement to compensation in respect of compulsory acquisition of an interest in land pursuant to section 41 of the LAA
- Section 97 - Compensation Claim Form - entitlement to compensation for loss suffered as a direct result of Commonwealth activity on one's land prior to actual acquisition.
Mineral Exploration and Mining
The LAA governs the approval process for access to Commonwealth land for the purposes of mineral exploration and mining.
For application forms seeking access to relevant land for mineral exploration and/or mining contact LAA@Finance.gov.au