By Rowan Forster
VicRoads will issue approximately 40 property owners their marching orders to make way for the long-awaited Healesville-Kooweerup Road upgrade.
Farmers, businesses and families are expected to be affected within the next 18 months as the State Government prepares to duplicate the deadly thoroughfare.
It has caused shock for some landholders, who were not aware a Public Acquisition Overlay (PAO) had been placed on their residence in 2013.
With a timeline earmarking construction for 2020, the properties could be vacated as early as next year.
Aitken Partners Compulsory Acquisition team leader Peta Olive said her firm has already liaised with three residents who were unaware they were on the State Government’s hit list.
Ms Olive and her colleagues are hosting a forum in Officer to assist people through the process.
“We’ve already had landowners ring us up and say they’re not sure why they’ve been invited and it turned out they did not know about the PAO applied in 2013,” she said.
“At least now, for those who knew about the PAO, there is some certainty that their land will be compulsorily acquired.”
The acquisition of 40 properties relates strictly to ‘Stage 1B’ of the project.
“It’s important that people who are going to be impacted are armed with knowledge so they can make informed decisions,” Ms Olive added.
Most properties that will be acquired are believed to be near Island Road, Soliders Road and Ellett Road – where change of access works have been proposed.
One resident, who owns farming land near the Pakenham Water Recycling Plant, told the Gazette a parcel of his land was a worthy sacrifice to prevent fatalities on the notorious road.
“It’s a small price to pay if it’s going to save lives,” he said.
“You don’t want to give up the land but it’s not like giving it up for a corporate development.”
The Major Road Projects Authority has reserved the remainder of 2018 for site investigations, community consultation, design development and the beginning of a tender process.
In 2019, the design will be finalised and the $4 billion Suburban Roads Upgrade package unlocked to compensate landowners.
Ms Olive has warned the compulsory acquisition process could proceed “quite quickly”, given VicRoads already has authority to seize the land.
“Once their planning, investigations and preliminary studies have been undertaken, they will issue a notice of intention to acquire, which will be served to all the landowners,” she said.