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The billionaire Perich family are among about a dozen landowners near Sydney’s second airport to have avoided the state government acquiring their land for an $11 billion metro rail line after a decision was made last year to tunnel under farmland instead of crossing it.
A "cabinet in confidence" report shows Sydney Metro, which is delivering the rail project, was preparing to acquire about five hectares from the Perichs at Bringelly in western Sydney.
The report, which detailed a strategy for acquiring land, had recommended that entering a "dialogue" with one of the Perichs' companies "should be treated as a priority".
Major earthworks are under way at the site of Western Sydney Airport.CREDIT:BROOK MITCHELL
The five hectares initially eyed for acquisition is a fraction of a large Perich property abutting the site of a train station planned at Bringelly, around which a city centre will be developed over the coming decades.
Negotiations over acquiring the land never eventuated because the government decided months after the strategy report was completed in October 2019 to build the section of the line from the airport to Bringelly underground in twin tunnels, instead of through farmland.
Had the negotiations gone ahead, the government would have acquired the five hectares from the Perichs based on the property's "existing rural use" at the time.
Tony Perich (right) and his son Mark Perich at their dairy farm at Bringelly, which is next to the site of the new airport.CREDIT:JAMES BRICKWOOD
The other 12 landowners south of Western Sydney Airport to avoid acquisitions have mostly smaller blocks.
A corruption inquiry into disgraced former state Liberal MP Daryl Maguire and a scathing Auditor-General report into the federal government's handling of the purchase of land from the Perich family have put the spotlight on the oversight of developments around the airport site.
The Perichs stand to make a significant gain on their large property adjacent to the planned Aerotropolis train station at Bringelly. Much of their land is in an area that was rezoned to mixed use from primarily rural in October, clearing the way for houses, office buildings and shops to be built.
"It is one of the greatest windfall profits that can be made – the conversion of rural to inner-city land in one fell swoop," said James Weirick, emeritus professor and former director of urban development and design at the University of NSW. "The value is created by public policy and the unearned increment should be significantly taxed."
Federal Liberal MP John Alexander said the value of a hectare close to a new train station could rise from $5000 to more than $25 million the moment its location was announced.
"We should put something in place to capture a fair share of this windfall," he said. "The moment you make an announcement the value has changed and it is too late."
Mr Alexander said governments had a duty to taxpayers to secure just, equitable and fair portions of increases in property values when it was clearly linked to government-funded infrastructure such as the airport and the rail line.
"It is manifestly the sins of the government on both sides to have failed to see what was happening," he said. "The spending of taxpayer money ... [on infrastructure] is making a handful of people multibillionaires."
This article first appeared on www.smh.com.au
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