Beach blocks compo demand

A GROUP representing Ninety Mile Beach property owners has flagged legal action if proper compensation is not provided.

Ninety Mile Beach Property Rights Action Group president Vassily Afcouliotis questioned the fairness of Wellington Shire Council’s plan to acquire land inappropriately subdivided.

“They’ve asked the government to change the law so they can acquire land,” he told the Gippsland Times.

“We’ll try and prevent this from happening. We’ve gathered sufficient information to go to the next step.”

Coastal lots sold during the 1950s and 1960s have been deemed unsuitable for development because of eroding soil, poor conditions for effluent disposal, and high quality vegetation.

Since 2012, about 1400 lots, more than two-thirds of lots outside settlement areas between Golden Beach and The Honeysuckles, have been transferred to council for as part of a voluntary assistance scheme.

Mr Afcouliotis believed the $1500 payments were “ex gratia”, not proper compensation.

Legally, the giver of an ex gratia payment does not recognise any liability or legal obligation.

“We’ll give the land back, not on ex gratia payments. It’s got to be on proper grounds,” Mr Afcouliotis said.

“We want a proper valuation.”

The PRAG is asking the government for compensation and asking council for a fair process.

Mr Afcouliotis said the group was prepared to take legal action if requests aren’t met.

“We’re out to get satisfaction,” he said.

“What council is doing is against the law, it’s against the rights of Australians.”

Any agreement for higher payments would only apply to people who haven’t taken up council’s offer.

Council last Tuesday night voted to compulsorily acquire the land of 430 owners it was unable to find.

“I don’t honestly believe council has done enough to track down these people,” Mr Afcouliotis said.

Council’s search for landholders included checking databases, online searches, phone calls and probate searches of deceased estates.

Mayor Darren McCubbin said a significant amount of work had been undertaken since 2011 on the Ninety Mile Beach Plan to progress and resolve a long-running issue and protect the environmentally sensitive coastline along Ninety Mile Beach from inappropriate development.

“Council has undertaken an extensive engagement process to locate land owners in the ‘between settlements area’, but despite our efforts there are still 430 land owners that we have not been able to make contact with.

“As a result, we have made an application to the state government for council to be given the ability to make compulsory acquisitions of these blocks of land.

“Council will carry out all land acquisition processes relevant to the Ninety Mile Beach Plan in accordance with the requirements of the Land Acquisition and Compensation Act 1986.

“The amount of compensation payable is based on independent valuations and the requirements of the act. Any compensation is payable to a person or persons with a legal interest in the land acquired.”

Landowners who do not want to relinquish their lot are able to keep it but not develop it.