A few months ago, the government announced that it would be selling land in the Fraser Valley for $2.6 billion.
The sale would be worth $2,400 per acre, and would see the land given to the federal government to be used for the construction of a $1.9 billion highway linking the city of Port Alberni to Sydney, as well as the construction and expansion of a new hotel on the site.
The federal government, for its part, said the land would be used to construct a $9 billion industrial complex in the area.
The land was originally sold to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in 2001, and is still owned by the ABS.
The government, in fact, owns nearly 40 per cent of the land.
Since the announcement, the federal Government has been embroiled in an intensifying legal battle over the land, and in particular, whether the federal and state governments are actually entitled to ownership of the property.
As the story goes, in 2002, a group of investors in a consortium of businesses and people came up with the idea to buy the land from the government.
They claimed they had no intention of using the land for anything other than commercial purposes, but after the deal fell through, they turned the site over to the government, who were still in the process of developing a highway that would connect the city with the Sydney metropolitan area.
After the federal, state and local governments failed to agree on a deal that would make the land available for the project, the consortium went to court to force the sale.
A Federal Court judge, on the other hand, ruled that the government was not legally required to sell the land because the government’s previous dealings with the consortium were still valid.
In court, the Federal Court Judge in the case stated that the federal land was not property that belonged to the Commonwealth, but rather that the Government had a right to acquire the land as part of its plan for development of the Fraser and other sections of the Lower North Island.
In his ruling, Judge John Gombert noted that the Federal Government had no ownership interest in the land itself, and said that the Commonwealth could not claim ownership of that land either.
It is understood that the Australian Greens and the Australian Democrats are seeking to challenge the decision.
The Government is also seeking to appeal against the decision, arguing that the land is a sovereign and private asset that should not be auctioned off.
Read more on the controversy surrounding the sale of the site here.