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The 19 June 2019 decision of Stamford Property Services Pty Ltd v Mulpha Australia Ltd [2019] has assisted in further understanding the definition of ‘land’ within s57(1)(e) of the Heritage Act 1977 (Act). Where s57(1)(e) provides a requirement that approval for development must be obtained “in relation to the land” if it is a State heritage item or is subject to an Interim Heritage Order (IHO).

Meaning in Relation to s57(1)(e)

On appeal from the Land and Environment Court (LEC), the Court of Appeal found that within s57(1)(e) the meaning of ‘land’ refers to the physical part of the land which the State heritage item or IHO applies. This is contrary to the decision in the LEC which defined ‘land’ as the whole cadastral review with a relevant link to the heritage item. Furthermore, all judges disagreed with the LEC which held that the word ‘land’ cannot be determined by evaluating the circumstances within each individual case, but must be applied in an overarching manner to all cases to not detriment of the efficacy of the Act.

Within the interpretation of ‘land’ under section 57(1)(e), the Court found that it was concerned with a specific heritage item and thus should not refer to anything beyond the actual land on which the item is located.

Contextual Importance

It was noted that the word ‘land’ is highly contextual and as such does not maintain a consistent definition throughout the Act. Therefore, the interpreter must look towards the context of the section and its contextual meaning. Consequently, the Court will have to ensure that the scope and purpose of the relevant statutory provisions are considered when defining it within a piece of legislation; even at different sections within the same act.