POLL: Mining destroys Hunter property values

MILLIONS of dollars have been wiped off the value of Hunter rural and residential properties adjoining mining projects, with some losing 30per cent of their value over the past five years.

Some property owners, who describe themselves as the mining boom’s ‘‘collateral damage’’, are considering taking legal action to claim compensation for losses incurred to the value of their properties.

‘‘While the government crows about being able to access the royalties for the benefit of taxpayers in NSW, it’s at the cost of those rural land owners who are in that target area,’’ Hunter Valley Wine Industry Association representative Ian Napier said.

‘‘There is no just compensation for those people.’’

Barrington-Gloucester-Stroud Preservation Alliance chairman Graham Healy said the fall in demand generally coincided with the announcement of a coal or coal seam gas exploration licence.

‘‘I’ve been personally affected and there are many people up here who want to sell but can’t unless  a mining or gas company is interested.’’

The Herald has spoken to several property owners, who did not want to go public, who said prospective buyers had told them they were concerned about actual or potential mining activity.

NSW Real Estate Institute chief executive Tim McKibbin said some agents had raised the adverse impact that mining was having on property prices.

‘‘I do a tour travelling around the state talking to agents. That was an issue that was raised with me earlier this year in some of the communities that I went to.

‘‘There’s a counter argument that if you take a particular industry out of a community it can have an adverse impact as well.’’

Director of the national property valuation agency Herron Todd White, Leigh Mather, said potential investors were concerned about the perceived impacts of coal seam gas.

‘‘When you are dealing with valuation, perception is reality in many cases,’’ Mr Mather said.

‘‘Once one of those [exploration licences] hits your property, the chances of  you being able to sell it for what you thought you could is very much diminished.’’

Several Fullerton Cove residents who are trying to sell their homes agreed. They said interest in their properties had dried up following publicity surrounding the proposed coal seam gas project in their suburb.

The impact of coalmining on a property’s value was more direct, Mr Mather said, because of noise and dust.

‘‘I’ve done valuations up in the valley and they are 20 to 30per cent under what you would expect.’’

Camberwell resident Wendy Bowman said her 190-hectare farm, which adjoins the South East Open Cut coalmine would be worthless on the open market.

‘‘It should be worth $1.5million, but it wouldn’t sell if I put it up for sale,’’ she said.

A Land and Water Commissioner, who will facilitate greater consultation between government, community and the minerals industry, was appointed as part of the state government’s Strategic Regional Land Use Policy.

The Hunter Valley Wine Industry Association has requested the commissioner conduct an audit of property prices over several decades.

The findings could be used for future compensation claims for those who have been adversely affected by mining.

Gas plans scare potential buyers

CASE STUDY

EILEEN Dillon-Smith had two prospective buyers  within a week of putting her Fullerton Cove property on the market in early September.

One   said she would pay cash after she was satisfied the property was in sound condition.

The woman came to inspect Ms Dillon-Smith’s house some weeks later – the same weekend that local residents held a community protest against a coal seam gas project in their suburb.

Ms Dillon-Smith  said the woman to spoke to the protesters as part of her visit. ‘‘She came back and we agreed to get a couple of quotes to remove the camphor laurel tree. It looked like the whole thing to go ahead,’’ she said.

‘‘Then the following Friday I got a call from the estate agent who said she had received an email from the woman’s solicitor saying the client had withdrawn because of coal seam gas.’’

The other interested party also withdrew due to coal seam gas concerns. Interest in the property has  dried up.

Ms Dillon-Smith said she was considering  legal action to recoup the loss caused  to her property’s value. 

Dream home  plan is problem minefield

CASE STUDY

ROD and Robin Besier put their life savings into what they thought was an ideal retirement property outside of Gloucester in 2006. 

Their two-hectare property was surrounded by idyllic countryside, untouched by the mining industry.

They, and 30 other homes on the Forbesdale Estate, are now under siege on all fronts.

AGL has permission to drill 110 coal seam gas exploration wells in the area, the closest being 400metres from their home.

In addition, the proposed Rocky Hill coalmine is set to commence 900metres away.

A recent valuation showed the property, which the pair spent $750,000 on, is now worth about 25per cent less in a good market.

‘‘When we moved up here no one told us about the coal seam gas. We knew there was coalmining but it wasn’t anywhere near us at the time,’’ Mr Besier said. ‘‘It all changed in 2007 when we had a knock on the door from someone from a gas company who told us what they had planned.’’

Mr Besier said he was particularly disappointed with the Planning Assessment Commission.

‘‘They only judge a project in isolation, they don’t take into account the cumulative impact on the community.’’

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