Evaluating the impact of the land acquisition phase on property owners in megaprojects

Publication Type:
Journal Article
International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, 2018, 11 (1), pp. 158 - 173
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© 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited. Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of the land acquisition phase and site assembly of land for large scale infrastructure road projects and its impact on property owners. A review of one of the largest roadwork projects currently underway in Sydney Australia demonstrates the adverse impact that has resulted in property owners challenging the approach used by government to acquire land for this project. Similar case studies are used to set out the key measures that should apply internationally in mitigating challenges from property owners in the land acquisition phase. It further shows that while adequate statutory provisions are important, it is the practices of acquiring authorities that ultimately determine the success and expedition of this initial important phase of these projects. Design/methodology/approach: In measuring the factors that impact the acquisition of land by negotiation in contrast to acquisition by compulsory taking, a case study methodology is used. In this approach, the author reviews two completed projects and the factors that contributed to their success. These are contrasted with the primary case study currently underway in Sydney, the WestConnex project in which a number of adverse factors have emerged that have impacted this project. The review of these cases examined provides options for reforms that should be adopted both in the WestConnex case and across projects internationally. Findings: It is demonstrated that the impact of the land acquisition phase on property owners with limited ability to rehouse within the same or surrounding locations, results in increases to challenges. This factor has prompted increases in the number of cases that have proceeded to court and potentially impacts the public perception and site assembly phase of large scale road projects. The inability for impacted property owners to relocate themselves has resulted in a breakdown in the ability for acquiring authorities to achieve acquisition by agreement. This is evidenced by significant increases in the number of properties that have been acquired by compulsion since 2016. It is found that the operational provisions of the land acquisition processes were obsolete in NSW, particularly those leading up to acquisition that was originally designed to assist owners. The paper finds that the most important phase of a megaproject is the planning and consultation phase, which includes most importantly the way in which impacted owners are informed, assisted and compensated. It is concluded that the processes engaged in by acquiring authorities rather than the statutory provisions available, will determine the success of the land acquisition phase and perceptions of the project. Originality/value: The primary contribution of this paper is defining the changing landscape that has led to the adverse impact on property owners in the site assembly process for large scale projects. It identifies the reforms that will enhance opportunity for owners to relocate and rehouse which will expedite the acquisition phase of megaprojects and restore acquisition by agreement rather than by compulsion. This in turn will contribute to improve public perception of large scale projects in urbanised locations.
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