By Darren Coyne
Glen Wright rues the day he and his wife purchased the Seabreeze Holiday Park at South Ballina.
Since their purchase Mr Wright says they have lost their life savings, been involved in a long-running dispute with Ballina Shire Council, and is now facing a bill of more than a million dollars to meet state government and council requirements.
But Ballina Shire Council’s Environmental Health and Development group manager Rod Willis has denied Mr Wright is not being asked anything more than other park owners in the area.
Mr Wright has told Echonetdaily that his troubles began after he purchased the park in 2005, complete with an operating licence.
‘The previous owner was told to upgrade the sewerage system and it was a condition of the sale that the upgrade was completed,’ he said.
‘Once those conditions were met we settled on the park and took over in May 2005.’
‘Once we took over we realised in a short space of time that we were having numerous problems with the sewer. Pumps were burning out and we started receiving penalty notices.
‘We ended up spending $100,000 to fix the sewer to keep operating but later found that a (council officer) had altered the engineer’s design, which led to a failure of the system.
‘Because we had spent $100,000 we sought compensation and took them to court. The (officer) denied in writing that he had altered the design but he admitted it in court and the council’s insurance company settled out of court.’
Mr Wright said the court action in 2012 was followed by further pressure from the council to upgrade the sewerage system following ‘a minor spill’.
Mr Wright said another condition imposed by the council – after he had beaten the council in a court matter last August – was that he had to upgrade the park’s bore water supply to drinking water standard.
‘I have obtained quotes for the majority of the work demanded which total in excess of $1m and all up the nearest I can get to is the orders are in the vicinity of $1.6m,’ he said.
‘I have attempted to sell the park however after two years on the market did not even receive a single offer and as a business agent said “who is going to buy a business with in excess of $1m in orders outstanding?”
‘So I can’t sell, can’t upgrade, can’t close because NCAT refused to terminate the 2 last residents who own their own dwellings so I have nowhere to go.’
Mr Willis, from the council, said that water requirement was a condition imposed by the NSW Health Department, although the council was tasked with ensuring it was complied with before a new operating certificate could be issued.
Mr Wright now has until May to either meet all the conditions required by NSW Health and the council, or face fines, and the possibility of the council moving in to carry out the work and billing him.
He argues that two other parks in the area still use bore water. Mr Willis said that may be the case, but they would be required to upgrade when their licences became due.
Mr Wright disagreed, pointing out that the operating licenses of two other nearby parks on bore water were dated after the conditional license imposed on the Seabreeze in October 2012, and they have not been ordered to upgrade their bore water to drinking water.
‘It is not a state government requirement to have bore water brought up to drinking water standards at all, in fact the preface to the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines state “They are not mandatory, nor enforceable, depends on user expections, users ability to pay and social impacts must be taken into account”.
He said the Seabreeze and other comparable parks in the area had operated on bore water for 40 years under this specification.
‘Council only changed this seven weeks after settlement of the prior court matter with the issue of a new conditional license in October 2012.’