The Greens question minister about compulsory land acquisitions

Abigail ask the minister about Transport NSW undervaluing residents' properties as well as their bullying and harassment directed towards residents in order to acquire land for the New England Highway upgrade. 

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (16:58): My question is directed to the Minister for Regional Transport and Roads. Landholders in the Hunter Valley who are having their homes compulsorily acquired for the much-touted New England Highway upgrade are claiming Transport for NSW is systemically undervaluing their properties in the acquisition offers, consistent with the findings of the inquiry I chaired, which discovered a culture of harassment, bullying and strategic slow walking from Transport for NSW when acquiring properties for transport projects. What is the Minister doing to advocate for the landowners in the Hunter Valley who are at the receiving end of this poor treatment from his Government?

The Hon. Scott Barrett: Point of order: That question, surely, was laced with inappropriate argument.

The PRESIDENT: Let me have a moment to read the question. I do not believe that it was laced with argument. The question made a number of statements that were part of an inquiry held by a committee of this House. I will allow the question. The Minister has the call.

The Hon. SAM FARRAWAY (Minister for Regional Transport and Roads) (16:59): I thank the member for her question. This Government has a commitment to build a very important infrastructure and roads pipeline for this State—a $19.4 billion pipeline, which was referred to in the question. The processes that we have around the compulsory acquisition Act are very rigid. If you are going to build legacy infrastructure, you have to acquire land. I am more than happy to take on notice specific examples around harassment and behaviour. Any member who has a constituent that has a concern around the compulsory acquisition process or the proposed acquisition notices—

Ms Abigail Boyd: Read the report.

The Hon. SAM FARRAWAY: Ms Abigail Boyd has referred to the inquiry—should raise it with my office. Members of this place have done that.

The PRESIDENT: Order! The Minister has the call. I call the Hon. Walt Secord to order for the first time.

The Hon. SAM FARRAWAY: Members of this place have raised specific examples of property acquisition processes when we build infrastructure. I have taken those representations seriously. There are limitations to what the Minister can do around the compulsory acquisition process. It is a very rigid process. It is one that is at arm's length from the Minister, for very good reason. A Minister for infrastructure, roads or infrastructure should not be dealing with the acquisition of property. This is not the old 16 cold, hard years of Labor when Ministers were diddling in the till around deals for people. It is not the Eddie Obeid show in the Hunter Valley. We have processes and we stick to those processes.

I acknowledge that when we build legacy infrastructure we have to acquire the land. We have some very rigid processes. But I accept that, for people that have to have the land compulsorily acquired, it is more than just land to them; it is their home. If there are specific examples that the member wishes to raise with me, my door is open. I am more than happy to meet with the member this week. I am meeting with other members in this place on this very topic. But there are very rigid processes in place for a very good reason. Again, this is not the Eddie Obeid show where Ministers get involved in direct contract negotiations around the acquisition of property or anything associated with an infrastructure build. I am happy to meet with the member on the specific topics raised.

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