Posted on February 10, 2012 by Megan Hawley

‘Paper subdivisions’ – A step closer

The Planning Minister today issued a media release regarding ‘paper subdivisions’. This follows on from the release for comment of draft amendments to the Environmental Planning & Assessment Regulation 2000 (EPA Reg) dealing with ‘paper subdivisions’.

‘Paper subdivisions’ are not defined in the proposed amendments to the EPA Reg, but supporting documents indicate that the phrase refers  to areas of the state which cannot be effectively developed due to a combination of a lack of infrastructure, lot configuration resulting from an historic subdivision, and multiple land owners.

The Environmental Planning & Assessment Amendment Act 2008 included a proposed amendment to the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979 (EPA Act) to overcome the difficulties in developing such land. However, that amendment has never commenced operation.

The content of the draft amendment to the EPA Reg is not, of itself significant. However, it brings the commencement of the amendments to the EPA Act a step closer.

The proposed amendments to the EPA Act are significant.

They enable the Minister to make a subdivision order in respect of land if a development plan for that land has been prepared by a relevant authority and more than 60% of the owners of the land agree to the proposal for the development of the land. The Minister must consider it desirable to do so to promote the orderly and economic use and development of the land.

However, interestingly, given that the purpose of the provisions was to address situations where there are multiple landowners, and difficulties associated with co-ordinating those owners, an order could be made in respect of an area of land held by only two owners. The legislation will therefore, potentially, have very broad application.

If a subdivision order is made, the relevant authority, which may or may not be the local council, can be given additional powers including:

  • the power to compulsorily acquire any of the subdivision land;
  • the power to levy development contributions and enter into agreements to fund subdivision works;
  • broad powers of entry onto the land; and
  • powers to carry out subdivision works.

Significantly, and to enable land acquisitions to occur in return for providing infrastructure, or to enable land trading, the development plan for subdivision land can specify that land can be acquired for compensation other than monetary compensation, and that certain provisions of the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991 do not apply.

Once the amendments to the EPA Act are made, it will be interesting to note the circumstances in which the provisions are used, and the manner in which the broad powers which can be conferred on relevant authorities are exercised.