Tamar River landslip compensation ‘not fair’, property owners say


March 26, 2020 09:30:00

Nigel Lazenby had always dreamed of owning a house with a river frontage.

Key points:

  • Five property owners affected by landslips say they just want “fair” treatment over compensation from the Government
  • Under a proposed law, they may be offered 75 per cent of the 2016 values
  • The Government says the offer of a payout isn’t “compensation” but is out of “compassion”

He and his partner Clare had just finished building that dream house along the Tamar River at Deviot in Tasmania’s north, when landslips they were never warned about started wreaking havoc on their home, cracking walls and making the house fall apart.

The family is one of a small group of Deviot residents now threatening class action against the Tasmanian Government and West Tamar Council, if a bill offering to pay them out for their affected properties is passed in its current form.

Tasmania’s Lower House yesterday passed The Brickmakers Point Landslip Act 2020, which would allow the five affected landowners to sell their Deviot Road, Deviot properties to the Crown for 75 per cent of the value price before a major landslip in May 2016.

Mr Lazenby described the 75 per cent payment offer as “ridiculous”.

“Nobody in their right mind would accept it. I have spoken to a couple of neighbours, and each one of them can’t afford to accept that, it’s far too low,” he said.

“I had it from a real estate agent that if we were to sell it, we’d be looking at some figure within the $800,000 mark, and what the government is offering is far less than half of that.”

‘We’re not trying to be greedy’

Nick Daking, who owns another property that’s been deemed uninhabitable, said he was frustrated that the Lower House passed the bill in its current form.

“We had to move in with parents, we had to pull the kids out of school, we then had to go find another property,” he said.

“We’ve been renting for four years since, plus had the costs associated with trying to leave the house and save it.

“It would actually put our family in a worst position today to accept a 75 per cent valuation of four years ago, so why would we accept it?”

Both Mr Daking and Mr Lazenby said the only consultation they’d had with the Government was a short meeting late last year.

They said they would have “no other option” but to take class action against the Government and council if the bill wasn’t amended.

“We’re not trying to be greedy here, we’re just trying to say ‘hey, this is not fair’,” Mr Daking said.

It has previously been suggested the risk of landslips was known by some, but building and development applications were approved anyway.

The bill was introduced to the Upper House late yesterday, but debate was adjourned after Rosevears MLC Kerry Finch labelled it “inadequate” and called for it to be amended.

“I strongly urge the Government to revise upwards the land valuations from 75 per cent to closer to 100 per cent, while at the same time using today’s real estate values, not four-year-old values,” Mr Finch said.

He said the subdivision should have never been allowed in the first place.

“There was evidence of serious errors by the state in its geological categorisation of the landslip-prone clay soils of the Brickmakers point area, plus the West Tamar Council had failed to acknowledge local knowledge about the [area],” he said.

No compulsion to sell, Govt says

Environment and Parks Minister Roger Jaensch said the bill was not about providing “compensation” to landowners and was “opt-in”, meaning affected landowners didn’t need to sell to the Government if they didn’t want to.

He said the bill was put out of “compassion”, and would ensure the Crown and the West Tamar Council were “indemnified against any future action for damages”.

“The intent is to prevent a person who accepts financial assistance under the legislation from then subsequently suing the crown and the council for damages in relation to the landslide,” Mr Jaensch said.

The five property owners sought financial compensation from the Tasmanian Government and the West Tamar Council last August, claiming they were not warned the area was prone to landslips before purchasing their properties and that the landslips had cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs.

Bill still to pass Upper House

Opposition parties in the Lower House supported the bill, but were concerned it could set a precedent for other homeowners affected by similar natural processes, like coastal erosion.

Tasmanian Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said the Government needed to be careful given the increasing impacts of sea level rises and storm surges.

“It does establish a precedent for government to step in when property owners are affected by natural events or events that are related to global heating,” Ms O’Connor said.

Mr Jaensch said the bill came from a precedent that already existed and said hazard mapping was improving.

“With regards to events like this, one would hope that there is less of a need for these sorts of responses in the future because there is better information,” he said.

If the bill passes the Upper House, ownership of properties that are purchased by the Crown would be transferred to the West Tamar Council following acquisition.

The Government would fund demolition and remediation works for all acquired properties.













First posted

March 26, 2020 06:35:28

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