Landowners do their blocks over sale plan – VIC

Simon Johanson – The Age
July 8, 2011

A $1500 offer to buy prime blocks of Ninety Mile Beach real estate and resolve one of Victoria’s longest-running property disputes has drawn a scathing response from some of the 2500 landowners caught up in the affair.

The dispute over building rights on a narrow isthmus of dunes between Lake Reeve and Bass Strait, on the Gippsland coast, has been simmering for 40 years since the Wellington shire imposed development restrictions on the environmentally sensitive coastline.

Land capability studies showed the sensitive dune ecology was not able to sustain the holiday homes nor the infrastructure needed to maintain them, the council said.

Thousands of ”inappropriate subdivisions” were sold in the area between 1950 and 1970, in many cases sight-unseen, to newly arrived migrants, the council said. But those owners claim they have been battling bureaucracy for years to get building rights or compensation, and the latest offer of $1500 a block was ”mean”.

”Wellington council thinks it is being generous by offering single block owners $1500 through an expression-of-interest process,” said one owner and the Ninety Mile Beach Property Rights Group spokesman, Charlie Grech. ”This is for a beach block that is worth $12,000 just two kilometres up the road, and a minimum of $150,000 in a metropolitan area.”

The dispute reached a head last week when a four-year moratorium introduced by the former planning minister, Justin Madden, ended. The present government then approved a temporary scheme that curtailed further development, offering a voluntary $1500-a-lot buyback for 2433 single blocks and market value for 65 other ”combined” blocks.

Mr Grech said the shifting sands of the government-imposed moratorium and the council’s ”propaganda” about environment issues and sea-level rises had decimated the value of the land, which is near the townships of Golden Beach, Paradise Beach, The Honeysuckles and Seaspray.

But Paul Holton, acting chief executive of Wellington shire, said the disputed beachfront properties had been independently valued by the state’s valuer-general. As well as the buyback, the council was offering owners of the ”combined” land blocks a like-for-like exchange to the Glomar Beach area, he said, but the number of lots on offer for exchange were limited and would not stretch to all owners if they expressed an interest.

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