Anger at timing of Crown roads sell-off in drought

Landholders told to "consider" options in bulk Crown road sale

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There are many old 'paper roads' owned by the Crown in NSW. Landholders are being offered sale prices on these roads to "tidy up" their titles.

There are many old 'paper roads' owned by the Crown in NSW. Landholders are being offered sale prices on these roads to "tidy up" their titles.

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Landholders contest valuations on Crown road offers

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Almost 50 clusters of Crown "paper roads" are up for sale in the state, angering some landholders at the timing and the price.

The old mapped roads, some of which run over cliffs and on top of existing fences, are part of a cache of Crown roads being advertised for sale in many parts of the state, mainly via local newspapers and through letters to titleholders.

One landholder near Tamworth has been told they can purchase the Crown land road for over $20,000 - an impossibility for them as they battle the drought and sell more and more stock to stay afloat.

They say they put an application in 10 years ago and never heard back. She was later told "the backlog was 10 years old" in the department.

She has since received a new letter, but now the land has been re-valued by the Valuer-General.

Most of the landholders already pay rents of up to $300 a year for the Crown roads on their property. But one landholder told The Land she would not be paying her rates in future.

She was so upset to receive the letter requesting $6000 for a road she's not even sure where it goes. "Where am I going to get $6000 from?" Her Crown land was valued at $788 a hectare.

Another landholder said one of her "paper roads" ran over a cliff, another across a river, while another Crown land road on the other side of Tamworth ran up a cliff face.

"They should be paying us, as we look after this land," one landholder said.

"It's so strange in the drought to be doing this right now."

They've been told they can defer the purchase for a couple of years and there was no pressure to buy the land.

A spokesperson for the Department of Lands said the landholders had nothing to fear that someone else might buy the Crown Land if they didn't.

Some feared they could lose access to their property, but the spokesperson was adamant the title was "landlocked", and was an attempt to legally tie up titles if people wanted.

"There is no chance someone can buy something under their nose," the spokesperson said.

The proposed sales had been underway since 2009. "If they want they can delay purchases to 2020 or 2022."

The department also gives landholders the option to pay off in installments.

There are some hefty fees though involved in the purchase, starting at $305 for an upfront purchase processing fee and then a $346 for a plan preparation fee. In all there are about $1700 in fees above the purchase price.

Landholders are told to "carefully consider their position" in relation to the purchase of the old mapped roads.

One landholder said Crown Lands had been helpful and they were negotiating some type of outcome.

"We've been paying these rents for 40 years and honestly its cheaper if we just leave it as it is.

"These roads go here, there and everywhere. We are angry at the amount they are asking for.

"We can't afford to pay that in the drought."

One page of a letter to a landholder offering to buy a Crown Road.

One page of a letter to a landholder offering to buy a Crown Road.

Another landholder wrote to The Land saying: "Because we, like most of our neighbours, have horse and cart tracks on our property from many years ago we have to pay a yearly rental. To avoid the rental fee you must fence the road out using a conveyancer and then get a JP to sign that that has been done.

"Since this is expensive and time consuming everyone I know just pays the rental fee (for me that means a few hundred dollars a year). Alternatively we can now buy the roads for $788 a hectare!!!!

"They have offered me a chance to buy some of these roads approx total 6HA. If i dont buy them then my neighbour might, i'll continue to pay rent on them or I may lose access to a Lot that I own but is separate from my main block.

"To be honest I have so many other things to spend $5k on right now as would every one of my neighbours. Plus one of the roads technically doesn't exist as it is on the map. When i said to Sandy that she is trying to sell me something imaginary she said they were called paper roads and may not be a true representation of what exists. So what am I buying? A line on a map? . I then have to ask what happens if I do nothing.

"This is a lot of financial pressure at a time where agriculture has been paying the price of drought. Our neighbour is looking at a cost of $20k. No one wants to keep paying rent on these horse and cart roads that may not exist anymore but no one wants to buy them either especially since we are still in drought. Lawyers cost money as well."

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