The land valuation of our property in the Daintree rainforest has recently jumped by 250%. This may well reflect market activity over the last few years, but then again, government intervention has largely influenced these changes, with broad scale expropriation of development rights, including the right to construct dwelling homes on freehold land. It is unsurprising that properties with established homes would become more valuable, because of their administratively increased exclusivity, but these are not unimproved values. It is equally evident that those properties that were compulsorily stripped of development rights lost market value and for obvious reasons.
Our freehold property, in particular, was compulsorily inscribed within World Heritage in December of 1988. Its classification for farming was maintained, but World Heritage responsibilities, as prescribed within domestic legislation, have progressively diminished farming activities; most dramatically through the prohibition of harvesting native forests. At a local government level, World Heritage has been used to separate planning areas, to effectively deny development capabilities for the greater importance of protecting ecological values within the inscribed estate. In truth, the income-earning capabilities of freehold World Heritage lands have been progressively diminished.
On the basis of these mounting constraints, we lodged an objection to the new valuation, detailing the legislated conservation land-use and the lack of rateable services – no reticulated water, no reticulated electricity and a road that is frequently impassable due to the inadequacies of the existing infrastructure.
Not only was the decision on objection disallowed, but also a new valuation was simultaneously dispatched, with a further increase in unimproved value of an additional 250%. Details within our objection apparently alerted valuers to changes in land-use that no longer qualified for concession for farming. So what was once eligible for rateable concession, because of an existing right to harvest forest product, became ineligible, for the higher importance of protecting forest product. Go figure!
This reminded me of another valuation milestone in the Daintree rainforest, back in the mid-1990’s. Around $16million of Commonwealth and Queensland Government funds had been allocated for the voluntary conversion of Daintree freehold rainforest to National Park. Properties in the Cooper valley were prioritised for acquisition, because of their intrinsic values of rarity, endemicity and primitiveness.
In an act of perceived skulduggery, property values within the priority acquisition area, unexpectedly tripled. In response to the outrage of incensed landholders, officials insisted that those affected should have rightfully rejoiced, with the discovery that they had long enjoyed a ‘rate holiday’, brought inevitably into line with contemporary market-driven valuations.
I must confess that I remain unconvinced.