"It is about the highest law in this country, the constitution. And one phrase within it: ‘On just terms’. That’s what this is all about, being just. They want to pay only for the home, but they are taking away more than that, so much more.”
The famous words uttered by lawyer Lawrence Hammill representing Darryl Kerrigan in The Castle offer parallels to the situation faced by the Carter family at Marong, whose land the City of Greater Bendigo want to forcibly purchase to build a business park.
The council will next week vote on whether to progress the forced sale, which has been opposed by the family for a number of years, but what is ‘just terms’?
Leading land acquisition lawyer Andrew Pickles said just terms could include a ‘special value’, which relates to what might be of special value to the owner, and ‘solatium’, which is an extra amount of 10 per cent on top of the market value to represent the length of time a landowner has been on the land.
The Carters have farmed the land for more than 100 years, and if council approves the forced sale, the minister will have the final decision, after which an offer will be made and if an agreement cannot be reached within six months, the council will have to go to VCAT or the Supreme Court to determine a value, Mr Pickles said.
Another consideration would be whether taking the land in question, which is part of a larger farming operation, would make farming unviable for the family, he said.
“Anyone who knows a farmer who has to leave the land, knows they have a relationship with the land that's different to someone who owns a house. No one wants to lose something to which they’re attached,” he said.
Mr Pickles, whose firm Robertson Hyetts has dealt with a number of land acquisition cases, said the Crown had the power to override a person’s right of ownership of the land if it was in the public interest, provided the landowners were justly and appropriately compensated.
Bendigo council has maintained the 313-hectare area of land it wishes to acquire was well positioned and will boost manufacturing in the region, in addition to providing 3500 jobs for the municipality.
The council made an offer to the Carters earlier this year, which was rejected.
Be.Bendigo chief executive officer Dennis Bice said the Marong Business Park was “a fantastic opportunity to ensure continued economic growth, attraction of new businesses and long-term sustainability of business into the future”.
“The location ticks all the boxes in terms of access by both road and rail,” he said.
Max Carter on Sunday said the family had not made any legal plans at this stage and preferred to wait for the outcome of the vote on Wednesday.