This proceeding concerned questions referred for consideration by the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria which necessarily raised the correctness of the Court’s previous judgment in Halwood Corporation v Roads Corporation (Halwood). In that case, the Court had determined that under the relevant provisions of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 (Vic), the ‘owner or occupier’ of land for the purposes of land compensation must be the owner or occupier of the land at the date that the relevant reservation of land is imposed. The applicants contended that the ‘owner or occupier’ of land for the purposes of land compensation should extend to include persons who inherit land by way of testate succession and that, necessarily, the Court’s previous judgment in Halwood was incorrect.
The Court of Appeal (Beach, Emerton and Osborn JJA) agreed. The Court held that the proper construction of the relevant provisions of the Planning and Environment Act supports the conclusion that it is sufficient that the claimant be the owner or occupier at the date the right to compensation arises, and not at the time that the reservation is imposed. Thus, the ‘owner or occupier’ of land would extend to include those who inherit land by way of testate succession. The Court in Halwood was in error to hold to the contrary.
The Court clarified that any claim by an owner or occupier will be limited to financial loss suffered as the natural, direct and reasonable consequence of the reservation. Further, those who actively acquire land following reservation in the knowledge that the land is proposed to, or has been, reserved would continue to be precluded from making claims for compensation. There is, however, no ‘active’ acquisition in the case of those who acquire their interest in land by way of testate succession. Accordingly, the Court determined the questions referred as contended by the applicants.