5.3.1 Land AcquisitionLand acquisition, if it was required as a part of the process of development of the GP Super Clinic, was usually described in FAs inspected during the desk review as “Funding recipient to provide evidence of finalised tenure over the land” milestone, or similar wording.
Twenty-three of the 33 sites required the acquisition of land, and all suffered some degree of delay. Only 11 funding recipients acknowledged acquisition delays, while Departmental staff believed 23 sites were delayed during this stage.
There were similar variances in opinion over the causes of delay, with funding recipients acknowledging 23 separate delay events and Departmental staff identifying 54 events.
Council Approval of SaleThe steps involved in land purchase or acquisition by lease or strata are numerous and rely on a number of different individuals or organisations performing their roles in a timely way. Initially, a form of Contract of Sale has to be decided upon, usually by the seller or lessor in conjunction with their legal advisers. This form of contract has then to be agreed by the purchaser or lessee, usually in conjunction with their legal advisers. Depending on the funding arrangements for the acquisition, lawyers for funding organisations or equity partners may also be involved. As a general rule, the more parties involved, the longer each step will take.
There is also some evidence that the nature of the selling or purchasing organisation can influence the urgency with which the transaction is progressed. Large commercial corporations usually have several “layers” of management involved in the consideration and approval of these types of transactions, and may not always assign the same urgency to the transaction as the purchaser. In at least one instance, it was clear that the subdivision and sale of the portion of a site for the GP Super Clinic was not progressed through the seller’s standard procedures as quickly as the funding recipient had hoped.
Both parties agreed that “Council approval of sale/transfer” was the greatest single cause of a delay event within the land acquisition phase, followed closely by “Late finalisation of the contract of sale” and “Late registration of the Title or Strata”.
It is not possible from survey or telephone interview results to determine whether or not the root cause of the delay was over-ambitious expectations on the part of the funding recipient or tardiness on the part of Council or the approving authorities, as Councils and approving authorities were not surveyed or interviewed for the evaluation.
Registration of TitleThere has also been a tendency for funding recipients to act as though exchange of contracts for the sale, or execution of an Agreement to Lease, effectively secured not only the transaction but also all rights for them to act to establish the GP Super Clinics on the sites. Consequently, five funding recipients’ responses to the survey identified “Late registration of Title or Strata” as the cause of delay. Again, because Councils or approving authorities were not surveyed, it is not possible to determine whether the approving authorities were tardy in processing the approval documents or whether the funding recipients simply misunderstood or incorrectly anticipated the time involved.
In one sense, the reasons why registration of Title or Strata was delayed is not the issue so much as whether the numerous steps that can be involved in this process were recognised early enough, and whether or not sufficient time was allowed in the projects for each step to occur. Depending on whether or not the transaction involves just a transfer of ownership of land or, for example, the subdivision and transfer of ownership, the timelines for completion can vary by a number of months.
Subdivision of LandSubdivision of land includes most the following processes:
- Surveys of the portion of land to be subdivided and the land that is left of the original title after subdivision are required. It is important that both surveys are carried out and processed concurrently because there will be new and modified titles created. These will both require preparation and some sort of registration of plans (e.g. Deposited Plans) by a registered surveyor
- Depending on the jurisdiction (local or state government) the process of registration of the surveys may be a Council activity or a State Department of Lands activity
- In some jurisdictions there are statutory minimum periods for the surveys to rest with the Chief Surveyor who signs them before they are registered. In some cases, public notification or gazettal is required before the plans are signed off, sometimes with statutory timeframes for the public notification. There may or may not be appeal rights associated with some of these processes.
- The act of subdivision is usually only completed when the signed survey plans are registered with Council or the State Lands Department at the end of this process.
- Provision of new sewer, stormwater, water and electrical services to the new site boundary (site servicing)
- Site contamination remediation (e.g. in the case of old service station sites)
- Construction of new roads and pedestrian and/or intersection works.