Ben Jones may have felt like he was ambushed when he received the news that the government will ‘acquire’ his 195 hectare Lavadia property to build the new Grafton correctional centre, but he won’t give up his property without a fight if he feels he isn’t treated fairly.
“I got a phone call from the government to meet them out there,” he said.
“I turned up not knowing what it was about, and the thing is this, there were four of them and one of me.
“When I left the meeting I was informed [afterwards] that I had agreed with all of their proposal … I have agreed to nothing.”
Mr Jones said this was not the “first time this has happened to me” – the government also acquired land at the southern boundary of the property for construction of the Pacific Highway upgrade.
“I had that valued [privately] at $309,000 and I got $204,000 – the impact of that on me was the same as this situation; the land cannot be replaced,” he said.
The site is used for cattle grazing and for flood relief from the Clarence River to the north.
Perhaps Mr Jones’ biggest disappointment is that he has almost completed a $200,000 house on the block. The 83-year-old said he was laying and moving bricks last Sunday.
“I’m like Steve Cansdell, I’ve always been a fighter,” he quipped.
Mr Jones said he hopes that the government will cooperate beyond buying the land.
He said he will “go out and look at other properties”.
“I know they’re not going to be to the same standard or value of my property,” he said. “But if I select one somewhere, I’ll be looking for [the government] to put a covenant on it so it can’t be sold until we reach an agreement here.
“I’m only talking about properties that really are for sale.”
Meanwhile, Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis said he would be standing with Mr Jones, looking out for his best interest, to ensure he receives fair compensation.
He has an appointment to meet with Mr Jones during this week.
Mr Gulaptis said he was confident that a fair outcome would be achieved and said that he had not been approached by disgruntled landholders who have had land acquired for the new Grafton bridge or the Pacific Highway upgrade.
“I haven’t had one person come to me and say they were treated unfairly,” he said.
“I don’t expect that Ben will be treated unfairly and I’ll certainly be advocating on his behalf.
“The government is not about ripping off landowners or anyone when it comes to acquiring their land for infrastructure that is for the greater good of the state.
“When the valuations are carried out, the improvement on the land [the new house] will be taken into account.”
Mr Gulaptis said the land was selected by a panel of people qualified in their relevant fields.
“This also creates potential for an industrial hub nearby,” he said.