In a quirky legal twist, dozens of homeowners who live above the troubled $10.8 billion West Gate Tunnel project have secretly won a multimillion-dollar compensation payout because their land titles extend to the centre of the Earth.
The Victorian government has quietly settled out of court with around 40 Yarraville residents, paying each an estimated average payout of $100,000, according to the Herald Sun.
The precise information of the agreement, including why the government chose to yield in the landmark test case, are being kept classified under gag orders forced on the homeowners and attorneys involved.
The hush-hush settlement occurs as other Melbourne property holders living above major transportation endeavours like the $14 billion Metro Tunnel battle analogous underground remuneration claims.
The state government’s surrender over the West Gate Tunnel titles elevates hopes of potential windfalls for these inhabitants too.
Most newer property titles only stretch down 15m underground.
However, the older Yarraville titles indicate ownership privileges extending all the way down to the earth’s nucleus below the residential homes.
Last year, Slater and Gordon associate Adrian McMillan said inhabitants were entitled to remuneration because the government had “taken something that they possess”.
Estimates proposed a $4 million total payout if the case was won.
The government initially dismissed the claims, contending tunnels under properties did not impact values.
But it has now discreetly settled, abandoning taxpayers uninformed of how much has been disbursed and why the state backed down.
The confidentiality clause prevents discharge of details including the total settlement sum and the government’s rationale.
The Herald Sun sought comment from the State Government but a spokesperson would only state: “Claims are evaluated under the Land Acquisition and Compensation Act.
“As land affairs are commercial, it’s suitable they remain classified”.
As the Herald Sun revealed last year, Melbourne inhabitants residing above new tunnels like the $18 billion North East Link and $35 billion Suburban Rail Loop will not get the same remuneration rights due to legal alterations for underground acquisitions.
The covert settlement is the most recent controversy for the problematic West Gate Tunnel project, already blown out to $4.1 billion over budget and three years behind schedule, with completion now anticipated in 2025.