The Global Financial Crisis (“GFC”) and consequent fall in the Australian property market saw numerous purchasers refuse to complete contracts for the sale of land which had diminished in value. Legislation designed to protect consumers for purchases “off the plan” such as the Sale of Land Act 1984, the Body Corporate and Community Management 1997 (Qld), the Building Units and Group Titles Act 1980 or the South Bank Corporation Act 1989 has been invoked.

In March, property developer Treton Pty Ltd obtained an order for specific performance of contracts for the sale of vacant industrial land at South Link Business Park, Parkinson, in Brisbane’s southern Gold Coast corridor. The purchaser had refused to complete the contracts on grounds that the Disclosure Plans required under the Land Sales Act 1984 (Qld) had not shown half metre “natural surface contour intervals”.

The requirement arose under s 9 which required for “natural surface contour intervals”,

“the smallest of the following contour intervals –

(1) the contour intervals shown on a local government topographical map that includes the allotment…”

The evidence showed that, at the time of entering into the Contract of Sale, the Brisbane City Council e-BIMAPs for the subject lots showed half metre contour intervals. However, the Court accepted that the metadata which accompanied the e-BIMAPS demonstrated that the contours on the e-BIMAPs were not accurate to half a metre so that the one metre intervals adopted in the Disclosure Plans were the appropriate ones.

The purchaser also argued that the failure to show more than one contour marking on the subject lots in the Disclosure Plan meant that it was not clear on the face of the Disclosure Plans what natural contour interval had been adopted. Fortunately the vendor’s expert surveyor was able to show (by reference to other natural surface contour intervals in the Disclosure Plan for undeveloped land to the north of the subject lots and the final contour intervals on the subject lots) that original contour intervals of 1 metre had been adopted.

Although not necessary for the Court to decide because of the decree of specific performance, the Court nonetheless expressly accepted that land values had been immediately impacted by the GFC and not just when the first sales evidence emerged for like land post GFC some nine months later.

The outcome is not only good news for McInnes Wilson Lawyers' client, the vendor, but the surveyor who prepared the Disclosure Plans and its insurer.

The Purchaser has indicated it will appeal.

Treton Pty Ltd v HM Australia Holdings Pty Ltd [2011] QSC 38 delivered 21 March 2011. (P McMurdo J)