Find out more about how the Public Works Act 1981 operates, your entitlements under this legislation, and our role in administering the Act.

Public works, such as roads, often cannot be built without affecting private landowners and their interests in land. Under the Public Works Act 1981, the Crown has the power to acquire land to ensure these works can proceed. Compensation is paid to the landowners for the land acquired.

We administer this legislation, which sets out the acquisition process and the powers and entitlements of the Crown and the landowners involved. The Crown can only acquire land in accordance with the Public Works Act.

These pages provide an overview of how Crown agencies acquire land under this legislation. They are not intended as a substitute for expert legal advice, and we strongly recommend you consult your lawyer if your land is required for a public work.

The process

Land acquired by agreement

If your land is required for a public work, you can agree to sell it to the Crown. In this case, we will negotiate and agree with you appropriate terms and conditions, including the amount of compensation, on behalf of the Crown agency acquiring the land.

We will obtain a valuation from a registered valuer, and you can seek your own valuation as well. If you seek independent advice from a valuer, solicitor, accountant, or other professional adviser, the cost you incur for this advice – if reasonable – may be reimbursed.  However, you must act reasonably to avoid incurring unnecessary costs.

If you agree to the Crown acquiring your land but we cannot agree on the compensation payable, we can refer this to be determined by the Land Valuation Tribunal.

Once an agreement in principle has been reached, we will prepare an agreement for you to sign for the sale and purchase of your land. Once we have signed the agreement, it becomes a binding contract. Payment is usually made by the relevant Crown agency, after you give vacant possession of the property.

If only part of your land is acquired – or a specific interest like an easement – then a compensation certificate will be registered on your title to protect the Crown’s interest under the agreement. Unless the certificate has ongoing conditions, it will be removed after any survey and administrative work has been completed.

Compulsory acquisition

If we cannot reach an agreement with you to purchase your land, the Public Works Act allows the Minister for Land Information to acquire the land compulsorily. This power is only exercised after we have made all reasonable endeavours to negotiate the sale and purchase of your land in good faith.

You have the right to object to the compulsory acquisition, which will be considered by the Environment Court. However, your right is to object to the taking of your land, not to the amount of compensation. 

If we cannot agree the amount of compensation to be paid, you can request that the compensation be determined by the Land Valuation Tribunal. 

Compensation

You are entitled to compensation for land acquired or taken under the Public Works Act. The amount of compensation will vary from case to case but the general principle is that you will be left in no better or worse position than before the land was acquired. This means that you will not be compensated so as to make a profit from the public work. 

You are only entitled to compensation if you have an interest in the land being acquired, including property rights such as leases or licences. An interest in chattels or personal rights over the land does not give you a right to compensation. 

Compensation is not limited to the market value of the land. You are entitled to compensation for additional losses that may include:

  • Permanent depreciation in the value of any land that you retain
  • Damage to any land 
  • Disturbance relating to the acquisition 

Although you are entitled to compensation for these types of loss, you have an obligation to take all reasonable steps to keep your losses and expenses to a minimum. You can only be compensated for losses and expenses that occur as a direct consequence of the acquisition of your land. If your losses are increased because of your actions (or lack of them), you will not receive extra compensation to cover them. 

You can find more detailed information about what you are entitled to be compensated for, and how much compensation will be paid, in the downloadable Landowner’s Rights booklet.