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Issue #1733      June 1, 2016

Privatisation plan puts NSW land title at risk

Lawyers are critical of a government plan to privatise the New South Wales titling and registry business of Land and Property Information (LPI), a service that underpins the State’s economy.

This follows an announcement that the NSW government will proceed with a 35 year long-term concession, inviting the private sector to operate the State’s land titling and registry business.

“There are some state-owned assets that should remain in public hands,” said President of the Law Society of NSW, Gary Ulman in response to the announcement.

“Our land titles system protects the property interests of all NSW land owners and it is simply not in the public interest for the LPI to be sold off to private enterprise.

“The justification for the privatisation of public assets usually lies in the need for a large scale injection of capital into an industry, or to address underperformance by a government utility – neither rationale applies in this case,” Mr Ulman said.

Mr Ulman said the case for privatisation of the titling and registry business of LPI has in no way been established. “This raises important issues around adequate protection of sensitive data, the continued implementation of best practice anti-fraud measures, and the potential loss of expertise of LPI personnel.”

Mr Ulman said the LPI provides one of the best land titles systems in the world, and currently returns a healthy dividend to the State.

“The risk to the people of NSW is that a failure by a private operator to maintain the reliability and integrity of the Torrens register could have much wider consequences, including a loss of public confidence in the land titling system.

Mr Ulman said that government assurances that services prices will be capped are also of little comfort. “Capping price increases to CPI could put service levels at risk as private investors seek a return on their investment.

Mr Ulman said that the Law Society would seek assurances from the NSW government that service delivery will not be impacted by the move and that the newly created regulator will be adequately resourced.

“We will continue to voice our concerns regarding privatisation of LPI’s titling and registry operations and press for consultation regarding the proposed new regulatory framework, to protect the interests of the New South Wales public,” he said.

Next article – Interview with the GDR’s Margot Honecker

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