The high risk of privatising NSW’s Land and Property Information - Public Service Association

The high risk of privatising NSW’s Land and Property Information

Land and Property Information (LPI) is a division of the NSW Department of Finance and Services responsible
for providing a range of land and property information services, including land title registration, surveying, property information, valuation and mapping.

It currently provides this information to individuals, businesses, local government, government agencies including emergency services, non-profit organisations and others at a reasonable, subsidised fee. Last year alone, it fielded about 146,000 calls, most from legal professionals in relation to land dealings.
Find out more about services provided by LPI at www.lpi.nsw.gov.au/about_lpi

In November 2012 the Minister for Finance and Services announced that “the NSW Government will examine the potential for private sector investment to expand services of the Land and Property Information (LPI) agency”.

The Association is concerned there appears to be only a cursory understanding of the massive risks to LPI and the citizens of NSW, associated with such a decision.
The privatisation of LPI services will have an impact in a wide range of areas including, LPI staff,  Bathurst community and surrounding areas, emergency services, local Government and other State Government Departments and agencies. The privatisation of LPI services will result in:

  • Work insecurity, with no guarantee of wages and conditions after 2 years or on-going long-term employment. About 260 staff work at the LPI Office in the regional service centre of Bathurst. Staff have been advised that the office is in line for privatisation, with claims that jobs will be guaranteed for the first two years only. After that, staff are on their own.
  • Job losses or relocation from regional areas of skilled staff will place pressure on regional communities, many already facing uncertainty as the O’Farrell government’s public sector job cuts are implemented. The service centre in Bathurst is a particular vulnerable area.
  • Redeployment difficulties in suitable alternative work in the same local region, causing hardship and social pressure if families are forced to move in search for new work opportunities. LPI has a highly skilled and specialised workforce.
    • Lack of support to users of land data and services and possibly no ongoing support, maintenance and investment in staff and community education activities and striving for best practice in its activities. There is little or no incentive for private operators to maintain the standards in these areas.
    • Increased costs to access information about a property or general land information, with costs passed on to ratepayers and other customers. Data is currently provided free-of-charge or at minimal cost. Increases in rates will not translate into increases in services.
    • No assurance that the data will be accurate and kept updated. In contrast to social-derived data such as Google maps etc or data supplied by the private sector, LPI data is collected and maintained to the highest government standards. These standards would be seriously compromised in the pursuit of profit.
    • Concerns about privacy standards and potential commercial advantage or conflict of interest when the data is held by private operators;
    • Lack of consistency and uniformity in decision making across governments as they will not be using the same data. LPI data underpins decisions made in planning, insurance, transport, health, environment, education, and tourism.
    • Emergency services will be hard pressed to ensure a high-level of frontline services for the community without access to accurate maps. Data sets provided by LPI inform emergency services and Police when they attend events such as a medical emergency, fire, flood, accident, criminal or potential terrorism activity.
    • No guarantee of ongoing supply of data at no cost to emergency services, including Ambulance Services, State Emergency Service, Police and the Rural Fire Service. There is a high risk of a compromised response or even loss of a life because of a failure in the accuracy of data provided by a private operator.
    • Information held by LPI is essential for rural and urban planning, flood mitigation, fire management, environment monitoring, natural and man-made resource management, forestry, waste, farming and minerals.
    • LPI information is always archived so that historical data can be retrieved if required. This function could be lost to privatisation.
    • LPI has a monopoly on services, privatisation will risk fee increases in order to increase profits. The public has seen what happens when government monopolies are privatized.

The Association has now embarked on an awareness campaign to inform members and the community of NSW about the work that is carried out by the Land & Property Information and the risks associated with privatization.