Nats fear land grab risk in road reform

18 Nov, 2015 01:00 AM
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Nationals WA MLA Shane Love is worried about new amendments to Main Roads WA laws.
Nationals WA MLA Shane Love is worried about new amendments to Main Roads WA laws.

NEW amendments to main roads laws have sparked concerns among WA lobby groups and The Nationals WA.

The Nationals WA MLA and Moore MP Shane Love said there were concerns the reforms would dramatically boost the powers of Main Roads WA commissioner to compulsorily acquire land off farmers and that a commissioner could enforce tolls on any WA road.

"We are quite concerned about the expansion of power that the commissioner seems to have been granted under this Bill, for a couple of things," Mr Love said.

"The first being the ability to levy a charge on any road, and to forbid other people from using those roads, and there was no clarity on how that is going to be delivered, and what nuisance value that will put on people."

Mr Love explained that under the Main Roads Amendment Bill introduced into parliament last Thursday, the commissioner could grant broader powers to apply tolls on vehicles over 4.5 tonnes on any road and may ban those vehicles using alternative routes to avoid tolls, which could mean heavy vehicles would need to install a GPS system.

"It is a nightmare," he said.

"It cost millions of dollars to implement, so it makes you wonder what the long-term aim is."

Mr Love said the legislation was not discussed with The Nationals WA MPs prior to being introduced by Transport Minister Dean Nalder.

"There is a great deal of uncertainty with the whole act and how it could be implemented," he said.

"It needed more discussion.

"We will be seeking to make amendments and ask the minister to make them. It is not ideal, because it should have been run through our party beforehand.

"I have been assured by the minister that he is willing to look at the things we have outlined."

Mr Nalder said the Main Roads Act was out-dated and required reform, particularly to enable a heavy vehicle charge to use the Perth Freight Link.

"It originates from 1930, with various minor amendments over the past 85 years and is no longer suitable for a modern road authority," he said.

"I assure you there will be extensive consultation and discussion with the community and industry on the detail of the proposed heavy vehicle charge.

"The heavy vehicle charge is about sharing the benefits on a 'win-win' basis with the transport industry contributing to an even more effective road freight network.

"And the feedback from industry is that it's cheaper for them than having to stop-start at traffic lights and wear out their tyres and use up fuel."

Mr Nalder said the Bill provides that Main Roads WA would have the ability to acquire land for a number of road-related purposes, including for environmental offsets associated with road projects.

"The actual land acquisition powers will be in accordance with existing processes under the Land Administration Act 1997," he said.

"In other words, the processes and procedures used for acquisition will be as per current arrangements used by Main Roads WA.

"These processes ultimately allow for compulsory acquisition if need be.

"Main Roads WA will always prefer to acquire land for whichever purpose by agreement and negotiation with the land owner, and would only compulsorily acquire land as a last resort."

Mr Nalder said the Bill provides the commissioner with the power to establish a heavy vehicle charging scheme for Perth Freight Link.

"The funding of the Perth Freight Link is contingent upon a State Government contribution of $650 million, of which $374.5m will be recovered through a private sector contribution by way of a heavy vehicle charge," he said.

"The charging scheme for the Perth Freight Link will only apply in relation to heavy vehicles with a gross vehicle mass of more than 4.5t, which includes all trucks requiring a heavy vehicle driver's license to operate. Details are still being finalised in consultation with industry.

"How it will operate will be set out in regulations that will be drafted in the future, following any amendments in this Bill. The regulations will be subject to ministerial approval, regulatory impact assessment and ultimate parliamentary oversight."

Mr Love emphasised his concern about the amendments did not relate to the Perth Freight Link charge.

"This is about all roads, because they could decide to put the charge on any road," he said.

"It could be the Great Northern Highway, they could decide to put a charge on the grain freight areas and forbid certain trucks from using other roads."

Mr Love said Section 22 expands the powers of the commissioner to do certain things with land.

"He can acquire land to provide a service station site or an environmental offset or any other purpose he sees fit," he said.

"But it doesn't necessarily have to be near the road at all, they can purchase land anywhere in the State as a compulsory acquisition.

"We could lose farm land or areas of significance on farm lands.

"We are concerned about the width of the power and that its held in the hands of the commissioner.

"I think it should be up to the government of the day to determine as a matter of policy."

Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Tony Seabrook said acquiring land should be restricted to the purpose of road safety and building roads.

"The environmental offset concerns us," he said.

"The association has no problem with taking land if it is means cutting a corner or straightening out a piece of road, that is a given, they have to have the capacity if they need to put pavement down.

"But the concept of wasting money by resuming good cropping land to put trees on it is not their role."

Mr Seabrook said more power could mean more toll roads.

"This is of grave concern," he said.

"The association signed off on the Muchea to Fremantle deal because it had been demonstrated to us that by removing the traffic lights out of the system it would give trucks a smooth run, saving stopping and starting would be balanced off against the fee of using the road.

"On that positive basis and having access to a good road - that is fine, but it is a real worry to the industry that they might start slapping tolls on roads all over."

WAFarmers also shared these concerns.

WAFarmers president Dale Park said the government could not expect the surprise Bill would be passed without a fight from the Opposition, advocacy groups and property owners.

"Mr Nalder has not only introduced a Bill that would give Main Roads WA an irresponsible amount of power, but would see the legislation passed without going through the proper process and consultation to allow for comment," Mr Park said.

"The ability of the Main Roads WA commissioner to easily acquire and dispose of property will be an attack on farmers' property rights if the Bill is passed.

"Additionally, the Bill's explanatory memorandum clearly states that the Bill would allow for roads unrelated to the Perth Freight Link to be included on the heavy vehicle charging scheme, which is completely unacceptable."

Mr Park said WAFarmers was still reviewing the proposed legislation.

, its initial concerns were surrounding the erosion of property rights, the risk that any road in the State could have a toll imposed on it and that it was without the checks and balances of ministerial approval.

Given the lack of consultation before this Bill was introduced, WAFarmers said it has difficulty believing that any consultation would take place before land was resumed or tolls imposed, if the Bill was passed.

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READER COMMENTS

Mike
18/11/2015 12:11:46 PM, on Farm Weekly

That Dean Nalder is an asset isn't he? He's managed to singularly has draw together opposition from the Nats (their partners in government), WA Labor plus the farm lobby groups. Hopefully with the Nats and Labor opposing, this Bill will undergo significant (and reasonable) change before it progresses. Not to mention his support for the road that doesn't quite get to the Freo port.

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