Username Password
PINA
Cook Islands ‘Forced’ sale of land for big projects, Battle over ‘intrusive’ access to property
10:54 pm GMT+12, 19/06/2019, Cook Islands

Cook Islands landowners fear a return to colonial days of property confiscations.
 
Government can compulsorily purchase property if landowners refuse to hand it over, under a new law.
 
Traditional leaders worry Cook Islands are heading back to the old practice where government took land by “force”.
 
During the consultation process, said Koutu Nui president Terea Mataiapo Paul Allsworth, the leaders had opposed the sections of the new Infrastructure Bill that allowed the government to take land by warrant.
 
But the bill has been passed by Parliament with support from both sides of the House.
 
It comes after problems getting land access  for big projects like Te Mato Vai. This led to delays in the multi-million dollar project to provide potable water to Rarotonga residents.
 
The new law says agreement with landowners should be obtained, to acquire land for infrastructure purposes. But if agreement cannot be reached, the infrastructure manager may seek dispute resolution – and failing that, the manager can apply for a court warrant to compulsorily acquire the land.
 
The court can grant the infrastructure manager whatever right or interest in the land it is satisfied is appropriate and reasonable in the circumstances.
 
The court also has the power to direct the length of term and other conditions, as well as appropriate compensation.
 
Allsworth said they were not happy with the power vested in government.
 
“We are aware that if landowners don’t agree, the government can take the land by force so we are not happy with this,” he said. “The landowners were against the idea of taking land by warrant.
 
“It is better both parties agree on the term and conditions for land being acquired for infrastructure purposes rather than reaching a situation where the landowners may be disadvantaged.”
 
Meanwhile, Government infrastructure project managers will be allowed to walk onto private land without prior notice.
 
The new Infrastructure Act authorises access to privately-owned land, as long as it does not disturb the occupier.
 
Project managers may enter your property to investigate possible new infrastructure, alterations or maintenance.
 
A select committee changed the bill to constrain access, warning that unfettered access may be “very intrusive”.
 
The committee acknowledged that some officials like power meter readers needed to “come and go”. But it was not acceptable to extend that authorisation to any project manager considering building new infrastructure.
 
Public meetings had been told that infrastructure managers would need to seek prior consent before coming onto land, except in the case of emergency.
 
According to the new law, though, a right of access may be exercised “without prior notice to the occupier or owner of the land, as long as the access does not disturb the occupier, the land or vegetation on it in more than a minor way”.
 
Prior reasonable notice is required once the project manager is ready to actually do the construction, alterations or maintenance.
 
Parliament made some changes to the bill, in response to the select committee concerns: it inserted the caveat that infrastructure officials should not disturb the occupiers w hen they come onto the land.
 
Cook Islands News revealed that an infrastructure manager will be required to seek the agreement of the landowner to acquire their land for a public project – but if that agreement can’t be reached, they can obtain a court warrant to compulsorily acquire the land.
 
It comes after problems getting land access for big projects like Te Mato Vai. This led to delays in the multi-million dollar project to provide potable water to Rarotonga residents.
 
The court can grant the infrastructure manager whatever right or interest in the land it is satisfied is appropriate and reasonable in the circumstances, though it may also set terms and conditions and require “appropriate compensation”.

SOURCE: COOK ISLANDS NEWS/PACNEWS


News feature
There are no related media to this article.
Pacific Islands News Association
Who & What is PINA?
Membership
Member Countries
Media Freedom
Training
PINA Convention
Awards
Contact
Gallery
Forum
Events
Jobs
Classifieds
PACNEWS
Home
Regional
Feature
Business
Sports
Archives
Partners
Communications Initiative
International News Safety Institute (INSI)
UNDP PC
AusAID
NZAID
SPREP
ONOC
UNAIDS
Media Helping Media
Partners
PIFS
SPC
IFEX
UNESCO
AIBD
GFMD
SEAPA
WPFC
IFJ