Landowners above Vic tunnel demand compo

·3-min read

Victorians with properties above the West Gate Tunnel are demanding compensation, in what could become a multi-million dollar test case for the state government.

Ninety Yarraville residents and commercial landowners have signed up to an action run by law firm Slater and Gordon, claiming the $6.7 billion tunnel will cause the value of their properties to drop.

They are seeking up to 10 per cent of the value of each address in damages, totalling roughly $6.6 million across the 74 residential and 16 commercial landholders.

Lawyer Adrian McMillan is leading the action, which has been underway since mid-2020, but negotiations with the government have stalled.

"We're really reaching a critical point here," the compulsory acquisition expert told reporters on Tuesday.

"They've continued to dig in and if a resolution isn't reached, we'll have to either take it to VCAT or the Supreme Court.

"It comes down to the pretty basic question, 'Would you rather buy a house that was above a tunnel or one that wasn't above a tunnel?'

"The market evidence points to the fact that there is a diminution in the value of these properties that sit above these tunnels at the date of the acquisition."

Mr McMillain said the claimants all have land titles created before December 1891, meaning they own the land to the centre of the earth. Titles issued after that year grant ownership only to a depth of 15 metres.

"You own all the land under your house and the government, to build a tunnel, has to compulsorily acquire your interest in that land, and you're entitled to compensation," he said.

"It's a little bit like VicRoads taking a slice off the corner of your land for a roundabout - it's a partial acquisition. This is just another way that they're acquiring a part of your land."

Slater and Gordon sought independent valuations on behalf of clients when their subterranean land was compulsorily acquired in May 2018.

It found property values were diminished by five to 10 per cent against comparable suburbs unaffected by the tunnel, a figure the state government's experts dispute.

"They're not denying our clients right to compensation, they're just saying that the compensation is zero dollars," Mr McMillain said.

Transport Infrastructure Minister Jacinta Allan is adamant the prices of homes atop major projects such as CityLink and East Link have been unaffected, noting the West Gate Tunnel was being dug at least 15 metres underground.

"The reason why we have to look at building more tunnels through Melbourne as it stands today is because the alternative would be to take thousands and thousands of properties above ground at grade to do this sort of work," she said.

"This is a very sensitive process, we'll work through it very carefully on a case by case basis."

Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien said landholders should be fairly compensated if major projects detrimentally impacted their property's value.

"Victorians just deserve fairness," he told reporters.

Mr McMillain said there is no statutory deadline on talks and he hopes to set up another meeting with government representatives in coming weeks.