The recent Land Court decision in Inglis v State of Queensland  QLC 7 is a good precedent for landholders who are negotiating with electricity or other infrastructure providers and concerned about incurring professional costs.
The Acquisition of Land Act 1967 (ALA) governs the taking of land and easements in Queensland and entitles landholders to claim compensation for legal, valuation and other “professional fees” reasonably incurred in the preparation of a claim for compensation. Infrastructure providers such as Powerlink Queensland acquire land and easements under the ALA.
The Inglis decision involved land located in Gatton which was being resumed for correctional facility purposes. The parties could not reach agreement as to the value of the land. The Court was called upon to determine the appropriate compensation.
The parties were at odds over the potential of the land or the “highest and best use” of the land. Town planners were called by both parties to give evidence about whether the land could be subdivided. In these circumstances the Court considered that “a reasonable purchaser would not rely simply on the valuer’s view of the town planning position but would themselves consider the opinions of the relevant experts“. Since the land was classified, in part, as Good Quality Agricultural Land, advice from an agricultural scientist was required to inform the town planner’s opinion. The Court preferred the evidence of the landholder’s town planner and compensation was awarded according to the assessment made by the landholder’s valuer.
On the issue of professional costs, the Court awarded compensation in the amount of $189,000 for legal (including solicitor and barrister fees), valuation and town planning costs as well as the costs of an agricultural scientist and a traffic engineer. The Court referred to the Land Appeal Court decision in Heavey Lex No. 64 Pty Ltd v Chief Executive, Department of Transport which confirmed that “a claimant can recover for work of a nature and within the scope of that which a reasonable person in the position of the claimant would have done or caused to be done. The fees and charges for the work must also be reasonable.”
The solicitor for the landholder was called to give evidence as to the reasonableness of the legal costs incurred. He referred to the claim as “substantial and not straightforward”. The respondent did not produce evidence to the contrary and therefore the Court found that legal costs were reasonable.