Club seeks fair deal from Main Roads

Kate PollardCountryman

A local farmers club in Greenough is calling for fair compensation by Main Roads, which wants to acquire land used by locals for fundraising by community cropping.

The Greenough Farmers Club was bequest 80ha of land 120 years ago and can raise up to $70,000 a year for community groups in Walkaway.

But part of the land is needed by Main Roads for the Brand Highway realignment to fix the ageing Greenough River Bridge.

GFC spokesman Simon Smith said the group was offered $46,000 by Main Roads for 4ha and due to time constraints, compulsory acquisition action had been initiated by the State Government agency.

"We support the bridge going ahead but $46,000 isn't enough," he said. "It's the best bit of productive land we have, (it) can yield up to five tonnes a hectare of wheat and 2.5t/ha of canola."

The group would like land compensation for the 4ha or a minimum of $100,000 to invest, with the interest given to community groups to cover lost production.

Mr Smith said community groups would lose about $3000 to $5000 a year in production and the land had helped many community groups to be self-sufficient.

Profits have been used to build and continually upgrade the recreation centre, construct tennis courts, build basketball courts, irrigate the polocrosse fields to national standards and install air-conditioning at the local school.

"We have a shop, a pub and a cross road. That's it. And we have some excellent facilities and basically it's all from this one little parcel of land."

But the group has become frustrated by the process when Main Roads recently reneged on an agreement to cover the cost of a land valuer, after quotes requested were deemed too high.

Primaries Geraldton Real Estate agent Max Correy has been selling land in the area for more than 30 years. He believes the land could sell from $200,000.

With work due to start in January and completed by mid-2014, Main Roads said it was negotiating compensation with the land owners and believed compulsory acquisition was necessary because of the project's urgency.

A spokeswoman said the agency was prepared to pay fair and reasonable compensation for the land in accordance with the provisions set out in the Land Administration Act 1997.

"In this regard Main Roads has arranged for independent valuations to facilitate offers of compensation," she said.

Main Roads is also prepared to meet reasonable costs for land owners to obtain their own valuations, but GFC quotes were considered excessive so other options were recommended to the agency.

"If (GFC) do not wish to proceed down the path suggested they can appoint a valuer of their own choice and include the valuation fee as part of their claim for compensation, which can then be dealt with as part of the negotiation process," the spokeswoman said.

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