Debate resumes over bypass

THE future of the land designated for the Fremantle Eastern Bypass is currently being used as a political football, leaving some doubt about the legal responsibility of real estate agents who may play a role in its possible sale.

Long planned as a link between the Port of Fremantle and Roe Highway, the Gallop Government intends to rezone the land in White Gum Valley, Hamilton Hill and North Lake, among other suburbs, for urban development and sell it off.

But the Liberal Party has promised, if elected, it will resume the land to build the bypass – a fact it expects real estate agents to disclose to potential buyers.

“[The] clear and unequivocal position on the part of the Liberal Party will prevent people from being misled into buying land in these crucial transport reservations,” Opposition leader Colin Barnett stated in a recent position paper.

That places the agents dealing with the land in a rare position with regard to representations about that land, particularly its future.

While compensation at current market value is made for any land compulsorily resumed, there is concern within industry about the disclosure of what amounts to a political threat, relying on the outcome of a future election.

Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan said that if the land were to be sold, the sale would be held in accordance with current laws, and if it were to be resumed then the Liberal Party would be responsible for compensating land owners.

Barrister Paul Mendelow told WA Business News that disclosure was an issue under s52 of the Trade Practices Act.

“The failure to disclose a potential resumption could be actionable, but I am not aware of any situation where a failure to disclose opposition threats constitutes material non disclosure resulting in misleading or deceptive conduct [S52],” he said.

“There may not be any loss or damage caused because owners need to be compensated at current market value.”

REIWA president Jim Hennebury said the institute’s position was that: “If any real estate agent provider is aware of material facts that relate to land, then that needs to be disclosed.  “Our position is that real estate agents have to be careful to disclose the Liberal promises,” Mr Hennebury said.

Fremantle real estate agents contacted by WA Business News agreed that, if they were in the position of selling the land, then they would disclose knowledge of potential resumption.

“We always disclose things like that, you would be mad not to,” said one agent who asked not to be named.

However, the agent added that everyone he encountered was aware of the sensitivity of the issue surrounding the land.

Southern Metropolitan Liberal MP Barbara Scott said it was up to individual real estate agents to prevent people from being misled into purchasing land that could be resumed if the Liberals won government.

The Opposition has sent a letter to real estate agents outlining its commitment to buy back the land.

In a widening of the politics surrounding the land, Melville City Council has committed $300,000 to a community re-education campaign against the deletion of the Fremantle eastern bypass.

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