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Interpreting reservations of Crown land



Interpreting reservations of Crown land


When the government reserves land for a public purpose through a Crown reservation,[1] the land is typically zoned with a public zone such as the Public Park and Recreation Zone (PPRZ). Once this happens, any use or development of the land must be by or on behalf of the land manager, or it must be associated with public land use. [2] A problem arises in the interpretation of “public land use”. The phrase is not defined in legislation.

Kellehers Australia has recently been active in this area. The dilemma is whether, if an area of land is reserved for the purpose of protecting the environment, is “public land use” restricted to uses that protect the environment, or should commercial activities permissible within the PPRZ be a more paramount consideration? The first interpretation would generally result in limited business or commercial activity on the land. The public purpose would focus on the enjoyment of nature, revegetation, or like land uses. On the second interpretation, even quite disruptive business or commercial activities, whilst providing economic returns for public land authorities, could result in significant dilution of public purposes.

These issues were argued in Teasdale v Surf Coast Shire Council.[3] VCAT accepted the second interpretation, but imposed stricter permit conditions to take account of potential amenity and environmental issues.

Freeman Zhong and Hubert Algie

21 December 2016

This post is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest. It does not constitute legal advice. You should always seek legal and other professional advice which takes account of your individual circumstances.

[1] This can be done under the Crown Land (Reserves) Act 1978 (Vic) s 4.

[2] Victorian Planning Provisions cl 36.02.

[3] [2016] VCAT 1224.

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