Moreton Bay Regional Council v Mekpine Pty Ltd

The High Court has allowed an appeal against a decision of the Queensland Court of Appeal on compensation for resumed land in the context of commercial tenancies. In March 1999 the Mekpine entered into a retail shop lease in respect of Lot 6 within a retail shopping centre, which, after an expansion of the area in 2007, led to amalgamation of Lot 6 with Lot 1 and newly named ‘New Amalgamated Lot 1’. In 2008 the Council resumed part of New Amalgamated Lot 1, which had previously been part of Lot 1. Mekpine then brought a claim for compensation under s 12(5) of the Acquisition of Land Act 1967 (Qld). A majority of the QCA held that the amalgamation gave Mekpine an interest in both Lot 1 and Lot 6, and that even if it did not, the area was a ‘common area’ within the meaning of s 6 of the Retail Shop Leases Act 1994 (Qld), meaning that Mekpine gained a compensable interest over the area. Before the High Court the Council sought to challenge both conclusions of the Court of Appeal.

The High Court unanimously allowed the appeal, holding that Mekpine’s rights under the lease for Lot 6 remained over the part of Lot 1 that lay within the former Lot 6. After examining the relevant provisions of the Land Title Act and the Retail Shop Leases Act (see [27]ff) and in particular ss 64 and 65, the joint judges held that after the registration of the subdivision plan the lease was registered under s 64 as only over that part of the new Lot 1 that was the former Lot 6, and the instrument which vested the former Lot 6 in Mekpine on registration of the subdivision plan was the lease itself, not the plan (see at [48]). The joint judges rejected Mekpine’s argument that to give the lease business efficacy it was necessary to read ‘land’ as meaning Lot 6 together with any other land that might be amalgamated into that lot: the clauses of the lease did not support that implication, it would be contrary to business sense to suppose that the lessee should automatically gain an interest in additional land without further consideration, and that nothing in the lease made it necessary to construe the lease otherwise than in accordance with the natural and ordinary effect of its terms (see [50]–[58]). The joint judges also held that the RSLA definition of ‘common areas’ did not supplant the definition used in the lease because there were no provisions in the RSLA that expressly incorporated the Act’s definition of ‘common areas’ into retail shop leases, and no legislative intent suggesting that its definition should be implied into retail shop leases (see [61]ff). Consequently, Mekpine does not have a compensable interest in the resumed land. Gageler J agreed with the orders of the joint judges and their reasoning on the RSLA but construed the LTA provisions differently (see [79]ff).

High Court Judgment [2016] HCA 7 10 March 2016
Result Appeal allowed
High Court Documents Mekpine
Full Court Hearing [2015] HCATrans 323 8 December 2015
Special Leave Hearing [2015] HCATrans 270 16 October 2015
Appeal from QCA [2014] QCA 317 2 December 2014
Decision, QLAC
[2013] QLAC 5 25 October 2013
Decision, QLC
[2012] QLC 46 10 September 2012
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About Martin Clark

Martin Clark is a PhD Candidate and Judge Dame Rosalyn Higgins Scholar at the London School of Economics and Political Science and Research Fellow at Melbourne Law School. He holds honours degrees in law, history and philosophy from the University of Melbourne, and an MPhil in Law from MLS. While at MLS, he worked as a researcher for several senior faculty members, was a 2012 Editor of the Melbourne Journal of International Law, tutor at MLS and various colleges, a Jessie Legatt Scholar, and attended the Center for Transnational Legal Studies Program.

One thought on “Moreton Bay Regional Council v Mekpine Pty Ltd

  1. I wonder if conveyancers should now search instruments such as leases, encumbrances and other interests to see whether they relate to the whole parcel or are stuck in the past (so to speak) engaging only with a cancelled lot on a cancelled plan.

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