Compulsory acquisition

Some authorities, usually government agencies, can acquire Crown land compulsorily. Most land acquired this way supports the development of public infrastructure such as schools, roads, hospitals and parks.

NSW acquiring authorities

The NSW Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991 (Just Terms Act) gives empowered authorities a process to acquire any interest (legal right) in land for a public purpose. Entities that are authorised by legislation to acquire Crown land compulsorily can use the Just Terms Act. These entities are:

  • statutory bodies representing the Crown
  • councils or joint organisations that come under the Local Government Act 1993
  • any other authority the government permits to compulsorily acquire land.

The department is responsible for the state’s interest in land administered under the Crown Land Management Act 2016. It represents the registered owner’s interest in Crown land that is subject to a compulsory acquisition.

The acquisition process

When Crown land is needed for a specific public purpose, authorities notify the department that they plan to compulsorily acquire any interest in land as defined by the Crown Land Management Act 2016. This can include any Crown reserves, travelling stock reserves, Crown roads and unidentified Crown land, waterways, substratum and stratum lots, easements and commercial leases.

There may be many parties with interests in Crown land other than the registered owner. The Just Terms Act requires the acquiring authority to be satisfied that it has identified all interests in the land.

Before acquiring land, the authority must consider the rights and interests of Aboriginal people and communities. Compulsory acquisition cannot go ahead where there is an undetermined Aboriginal claim over the land. Native title applies to all Crown land unless the Federal Court has made a native title determination.

After receiving notice of a compulsory acquisition, the department’s Crown Lands branch follows the review process described in the Acquisition of Crown land Guidelines (PDF, 574.06 KB).

The market value of the land determines the compensation the State of NSW receives for the registered owner’s interest in land that is acquired compulsorily. This is set either by agreement between the department and the authority, or determined by the Office of the Valuer General. A registered valuer sets the market value.

Other parties with an interest in the land may claim compensation.

If the authority acquiring the land wants to access or build on the land while it is held in the Crown estate, the authority should contact the relevant Crown Lands regional services   office on 1300 886 235 to discuss available options.

For more information about compulsory acquisition of Crown land, visit the Frequently asked questions page of the website.

Notifying us of a proposed acquisition

To notify the department of a proposed compulsory acquisition, please use the online notification form. We recommend you get the following information and supporting documents ready before starting the notification form:

  • a description of the proposed acquisition that is detailed enough to understand its full extent and likely effects
  • a detailed site plan, diagram or survey showing the location of the proposed acquisition
  • an Agent’s Authority to Act (if applicable)
  • results of a recent search by Office of the Registrar, Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 showing that the proposed acquisition is not affected by an undetermined Aboriginal Land Claim (ALC) OR
  • evidence from the lodging Aboriginal Land Council of agreement with the proposed acquisition and withdrawal of any Aboriginal land claim impacting the site/s of the proposed acquisition
  • a geospatial search report from the National Native Title Tribunal to identify registered native title interests, or in the absence of a registered interest, a statement from the authority as to how it will satisfy the relevant provisions of the Native Title Act 1993
  • an ownership status report from an information broker or the Crown Lands Status Branch identifying the land as Crown land
  • for land that is a travelling stock reserve, a letter of agreement from the relevant Local Land Services office
  • for land identified as a Crown reserve under management, a letter of agreement from the relevant Crown land manager.

Acquisitions under Commonwealth legislation

Authorities empowered by federal legislation to acquire land compulsorily should contact the department’s Crown Lands Acquisition team to discuss the relevant process.