Council receives report on the transfer of land in lieu of unpaid rates and charges

Councillors on MidCoast Council have been updated about a scheme whereby ratepayers transfer their land to council as payments for rates, charges and accrued interest.

Council’s manager of finance, Phil Brennan told council in his December report that the former Great Lakes Council received around 10 to 15 applications per year from ratepayers wishing to do this.

He said this is an unusual situation and as a result of specific constraints on certain land within the former Great Lakes area, commonly known as ‘non-urban’ land.

“The former Great Lakes Council area had a large number of these lots which were found in the North Arm Cove, Pindimar, Bundabah, Carrington and Hamilton Village localities.

“Non-urban lands in North Arm Cove are generally heavily vegetated with little or no infrastructure or services to support development. Many of the roads were not dedicated as public roads at the time the subdivision was registered and they remain in private ownership, outside of council’s care and control.”

Mr Brennan said council had previously considered future settlement opportunities in these areas during the preparation of the Tea Gardens/Hawks Nest Conservation and Development Strategy in 2003 and the State Government’s Mid North Coast Strategy in 2009. Neither of these strategies identified areas of non-urban land as being suitable and the State Government concluded that all future urban growth should be concentrated around Tea Gardens/Hawks Nest to make use of the existing developable land, services and infrastructure.

“Despite these restrictions on the development potential of these lots, the Local Government Act requires that council must levy rates on all land irrespective of whether it can be built on. Furthermore the land does not fall within the various categories of land that are exempt from rates and charges under the act,” Mr Brennan said.

“This has led to a situation whereby ratepayers after many years of ownership (in many cases) and with no reasonable expectation of being able to build on their land in the future and limited opportunities to sell the land, approach council seeking to transfer the land to council in payment for rates, charges and accrued interest.”

The report noted that council will be required to pay outstanding rates and future rates on this land.

Councillor Kathryn Bell asked what council intended to do with the land it was accruing. The director of corporate services said the land would be “landbanked. The land has lots of planning issues.”

Council’s then general manager, Glenn Handford said at North Arm Cove there are 3500 lots that cannot be built on and council currently owns about 900 of those lots. 

“Some people buy land thinking it will be rezoned and the rates pile up,” he said. “We landbank it and will possibly turn it into a conservation zone.”