Former senior officers of Land Titles Office fight leasing of Torrens Title land registration system

Security concerns: Ian McCormack (left) and Bruce Langley are campaigning against the changes, which have become law. Picture: Chris Lane
Security concerns: Ian McCormack (left) and Bruce Langley are campaigning against the changes, which have become law. Picture: Chris Lane

Two former senior officers of the Land Titles Office, who live in St George and Sutherland Shire, are fighting the leasing of the Torrens Title land registration system to a private operator.

Ian McCormack, of Heathcote East, and Bruce Langley, of Penshurst, say the state government move will result in an even bigger backlash than what occurred with the greyhounds racing ban once the public becomes fully aware of the ramifications.

The Concerned Titles Group they are leading also includes solicitor Margaret Hole, a past president of the Law Society of NSW.

Legislation was passed by State Parliament in September to lease the registration system, which is part of the government body, Land & Property Information (LPI), to a private concession holder for 35 years.

Labor strongly opposed the bill, which was passed in the upper hose with the support of Christian Democratic MP Reverend Fred Nile after the government agreed to a number of amendments.

Expressions of interest from the private sector have been called, with a closing date of October 31. 

Mr McCormack said while the government “has won a battle, they will lose the war in a couple of years”. 

“The biggest loser is the people of NSW, who don't yet realise they've just lost the greatest title system, which was put in place 150 years ago by our far more enlightened forbears,” he said.

“The move will yield a short term monetary ‘fix’ and no long term benefit to the public.”

Mr McCormack said the NSW land title system was “the envy of the world” and the government office that ran it was recognised for its leading role in the provision of cheap efficient land registration services.

He said the integrity of the registration system was crucial for the security of property ownership.

”Privatisation of the system will lead to a downgrading of the government guarantee,” he said.

The group’s summary of the effects include: 

- Private title insurance will replace the state government guarantee, adding an estimated $1000 to the cost of each new property transaction.

- The state land title data base will be vulnerable to denigration by accidental errors or direct corruption when the checks and balances are reduced or eliminated under private ownership.

- Conflict of interest is inevitable once a private concession holder has control of the land data base.

- The government can sell the historic Registrar General’s building, opposite St Mary’s Cathedral, as soon as they can move the existing staff to premises rented by the concession holder.

Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian rejected the “scare campaign”, saying the Labor government in South Australia was “going down the same path”, and other Labor governments were also looking at it.

Ms Berejiklian said proceeds from the leasing of the registry would be invested in new infrastructure, including sports stadium projects.

“The private sector will also be better placed to invest in new technology, which will have major benefits for consumers,” she said.

Ms Berejiklian said the integrity of the titling system would be protected by a strong regulatory framework.

“This will include government oversight of any private operator and the continuation of the state’s guarantee of the Torrens titling system backed by the Torrens Assurance Fund,” she said.

“A newly created regulator will monitor and enforce the operator’s performance in respect of defined service levels, key performance indicators and the security of the data.

“In order to ensure transparency, the price of monopoly services will only be permitted to increase by CPI over the term of the concession.”

Ms Berejiklian said the government would retain ownership of all the data and would require it be housed in Australia.