ABC Melbourne: Lawyers question ‘confusing’ East West Link property acquisitions. Jessica Longbottom Fri 11 Apr 2014, 8:32pm AEST
The Victorian Government has purchased two more properties near the proposed East West Link tunnel, in a decision some lawyers say confuses who is entitled to receive compensation because of the project.
They are the first properties the government has acquired on a voluntary basis since it bought 175 apartments at the Evo complex in Parkville for $90 million dollars last year, after an outcry from its owners.
Thracey Vinga, the owner of one of the Collingwood properties that has just been sold, says the contract of sale was signed with the government last week.
“We’re very, very relieved, but at the same time very guilty,” Mr Vingha said.
“Our family has achieved a good outcome for us and at the same time I know there are dozens of other families out there who may be more affected than we are and may get nothing.”
Mr Vinga started lobbying the government to buy his Bendigo Street house when he learnt it would be surrounded by ramps for the East West Link.
Despite his proximity to the project, he was never served with a notice that his property would be compulsorily acquired.
The acquisition has left other residents confused as to why they have not been bought out.
The business next door to Clifton Hill resident Ande Bunbury will be compulsorily acquired by the government, but she has been told her home falls outside the project boundary.
“I’ve tried to sell the house to try and get away from all of this, (but) we can’t sell the house even for below what it’s worth,” she said.
VIDEO: Compensation debate around the contentious East West Link (7.30 Victoria)
“There are already homes in this area that are unrentable,” Ms Bunbury said.
“So really I’m stuck here, I’m really in limbo.
“My quality of life, my income, is going to be vastly affected by this project and I’m currently not being offered any compensation even though I’m right on the project boundary.”
The government body charged with delivering the cross-town tunnel, the Linking Melbourne Authority (LMA), says it only offered to purchase the two Collingwood properties after it realised they were partially inside the project boundary.
The LMA’s Executive Project Director Kevin Delvin says both owners were leasing land from VicRoads.
“That’s not necessarily immediately evident…because it doesn’t necessarily show up on the title,” he said.
“But once that was established…both parties realised that avenue was open in this particular property.”
Lawyer Manisha Blencowe says the decision blurred the lines around who could receive compensation.
“It leaves a deal of uncertainty for other property owners who want to sell their properties but are facing constantly moving goal posts,” she said.
Last month, the government flagged it would consider compensating owners who live outside the East West Project zone, if that was a recommendation of the assessment committee investigating the proposal.
“Since then, the assessment panel has said they don’t think it’s their role and the Linking Melbourne Authority says they don’t have the power to make these decisions so people are left with a great deal of uncertainty,” Ms Blencowe said.
Mr Devlin confirmed LMA has no power to purchase properties outside the project boundary.
However, he says if the assessment panel recommended to extend the boundary more homes could be acquired.
The assessment panel will deliver its final report to the Victorian Government in May.