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Newcastle Light Rail Link Route Revealed and How to Protect Your Property Rights

Last Thursday, the Minister for Planning Pru Goward and Minister for Transport and Minister for the Hunter Gladys Berejiklian announced the chosen route for a light rail in Newcastle’s CBD. This option is a hybrid of previous suggestions which will include use of the existing rail corridor and Hunter Street. More specifically, as stated in the Government’s Media Release on the matter, the “light rail will travel east from the new Wickham transport interchange along the existing rail corridor, before moving south to connect with Hunter Street and Scott Street and terminating at Pacific Park”.

Prior to the announcement much controversy had surrounded the two proposed routes, with many arguing that continued use of the existing rail corridor would bring only ‘marginal change’ and instead advocating use of Hunter Street in order to make the Hunter Street Mall the ‘dominant axis’ of the city.

The present route that is to be adopted has been identified as the best solution by “utilising the existing rail corridor and servicing the city centre, while avoiding impact on Hunter Street Mall”.

While this option is recognised as being cheaper than one of the previous three alternative routes, critics have complained that this proposal is double the cost of using purely the existing rail corridor, and that it is disruptive to business in Hunter Street. On the other hand, some have called for greater integration of the light rail along Hunter Street in order to turn Hunter Street Mall into the ‘dominant axis’ of Newcastle. Despite the resistance, there has also been substantial support of the chosen route, which is due to commence construction over the next year. Who will be impacted?

What remains to be seen is how the development will impact property owners in the area. It may be necessary for the Government to resume land, either in full or in part.

The need for total or partial property resumptions needs to be communicated to the property owners likely to be affected and to the public at large as soon as possible. Once people are notified they will be able to ensure their rights are protected by seeking independent legal advice.

Top Tips for Property/Business Owners

  1. If your property is due to be resumed, you will receive a notice from the government letting you know that it intends to resume your property. That notice will tell you whether whole or part of the property will be resumed.
  2. If you receive a notice advising you that your property may be resumed, you should seek legal advice to ensure your rights are protected. The government is required to pay your reasonable legal costs in obtaining legal advice.
  3. Compensation is assessed based on the market value of your property at the date you were notified your property was to be resumed. You may also be entitled to claim compensation for a number of other costs that you incur as a result of the resumption, including stamp duty, borrowing costs and moving costs.
  4. If you are not satisfied with the government’s compensation offer, you may negotiate with the government either on your own or by engaging a solicitor. The costs of engaging a solicitor to undertake these negotiations must be paid by the government. If agreement cannot be reached through negotiations, either party may ask the Land Court to independently determine the compensation to be paid.
  5. If you operate a business from land which is to be resumed (whether you own or lease the premises), you may be entitled to compensation for the impact of the resumption on your business. You may be entitled to payment of relocation costs or compensation equivalent to the value of the business.

Is the chosen route for the Newcastle Light Rail Link the best option? Or is it flawed and unable to address the needs of the community? Let us know what you think.

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Accompanying image by Gordon Werner, used under the following license. Image modified from its original state.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: September 26, 2018.

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