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Tensions reach breaking point in land titles sell-off

lpi-queens-square-office-nsw

The NSW Government is organising tours of LPI’s Queen Square offices for its final bidders. (Photo: J Bar)

 

In 2016 it was announced by the NSW Government that its land and property agency, LPI, would be split up into separate divisions and the land titles arm of the government body sold onto a private bidder. However, inquiries by concerned bodies and mainstream media have since exposed the risks involved and a resounding lack of industry support.

It also emerged that the decision has very little financial viability. NSW’s Land and Property Information (LPI) is widely regarded as a world-class land titles registry, and consistently delivers a profit for the NSW Government. In fact, a recently leaked Treasury document reveals NSW’s land titles registry is annually earning at least $130 million in profit for taxpayers.

The sale of the LPI, which is technically a lease for the next 35-years, is expected to be worth about $2 billion. However, based on the leaked figures, LPI could generate $2 billion profit in less than half that time.

The change of hands will lead to higher costs for businesses and consumers, increased risk of errors and frauds, and increased risk to the security of private and sensitive data.”

The NSW government plans to use the profits for the sale to improve sporting stadiums in Sydney, offering no benefit to other parts of the state’s economy.

The Sydney Morning Herald Editor for consumer affairs, Esther Han, claims that the change of hands will lead to higher costs for businesses and consumers, increased risk of errors and frauds, and increased risk to the security of private and sensitive data. She lists surveyors, lawyers, real estate agents, property developers, unions, historians and investigative journalists as the peak professional groups that oppose the NSW Government’s decision and echo these concerns.

Despite months of inquiry, Ms Han has also been unable to find a single organisation outside of the NSW Government that supports the privatisation of the LPI.

Ms Han appeared at the annual Australia Day Seminar hosted by the Institution of Surveyors NSW, alongside the Institution’s President and private land surveyor Michael Green.

Mr Green describes the move as “effectively pawning off the crown jewels of the land titles system in New South Wales.”

“This is a proposal that comes with significant consequences,” he said. “Evidence from countries like Canada where they have introduced this system has shown a dramatic increase in the cost of title surveys.”

“Land surveyors and perhaps those in the legal professions will be under pressure from their insurers to pay higher insurance premiums in response to the increased risk of creating land titles,” he said.

The Institution of Surveyors NSW is encouraging its members to write to their local member of the NSW State parliament to draw their attention to concerns related to the privatisation of LPI.

In other parts of the country, the South Australian Labor government is also in the process of privatising its lands registry and the Victorian government is closely watching the NSW sell-off.

Four consortiums have been reported as involved in the next stage of bidding, with the final bids to be placed in late March 2017.

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