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April 22, 2021

Developers, the threat of court, and council costs

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Independent and Deputy Mayor of Tweed Shire Council Cr Chris Cherry. Photo supplied

Tweed Shire Council held an extraordinary meeting on Thursday, 16 July to discuss unauthorised earthworks and vegetation clearing at Lot 2 DP 596914 No.115 Murwillumbah Street, Murwillumbah.

The Tweed Shire Council had initiated a Class 4 Development Control Order to get the defendant to carry out suitable rectification works after he conducted unauthorised works both on his property and in the Council’s road reserve, said Deputy Mayor Chris Cherry.

The meeting, that was held in confidence, was to discuss whether Tweed Council would seek costs from the defendant.

‘Yesterday’s decision was about whether Council should also seek legal costs for the carrying out of this Order. The works required will cost the defendant in the order of $500,000 – $700,000 and the defendant will have to pay that, on top of the fines for illegal works he has already received,’ said Ms Cherry.

When the meeting came out of its confidential session they voted on the motion: ‘That Council advises its solicitors to include an Order that each party pay their own costs’.

Tweed shire Liberal councillor James Owen. Photo Tweed Liberals

Seeking costs a deterrent

While the motion was carried with four in favour, councillors Ron Cooper (Independent) and James Owen (Liberal) voted against the motion.

‘I voted against the motion not to seek costs as seeking costs would act as a significant deterrent to others,’ Cr Owen said speaking to Echonetdaily.

‘I believe it sets a dangerous precedent and am disappointed with the other councillors for voting in favour. The staff were adamant that this was not a good move and their advice to me and other councillors was that there was a risk if we don’t seek costs. I am not allowed to talk about the details but the cost to Council was not insignificant. It has ended up costing a lot of money, as well as the cost of staff time.’

Independent councillor Ron Cooper. Photo supplied.

Councillor Ron Cooper pointed out that, ‘It’s an issue where if we don’t start following through it will be held against us in the future. There are developers who try to get away with stuff by threatening costs in court and there is a history of some developers not being willing to meet the Council’s development requirements.’

Difficult decision

Cr Cherry told Echonedaily that, ‘It was a difficult decision but sometimes it can cost more to go after costs than Council would obtain if they were awarded, and as such, in these circumstances, Council made a decision that each party would pay their own legal costs.’

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  1. Dear Ed
    I have yet to see a convincing argument for Council agreeing to pay its own legal costs. So what was the argument(s) which was put behind closed doors at ratepayer expense? This argument should have been canvassed in public by the Council. Why should the poor bloody ratepayers get to wear legal costs for someone else’s alleged transgression yet not be told why? It certainly doesn’t help trust in a public institution which is supposed to be transparent and accountable according the intent of the local government act.

    Accumulated legal costs for Richmond Valley Council for the Iron Gates debacle were nearly a million dollars by 2008/2009 when Council’s insurer HIH collapsed and legal matters were still on foot. We have yet to hear the final costs to Council for Iron Gates Pty Ltd development legal matters as the proponent for this failed development has put up a new proposal for a large development for the Iron Gates and we know that Council has sought legal advice about this matter particularly given the fact that the Court Orders for remediation are still outstanding and attach to the property to be developed. It is interesting to note that Iron Gates Pty Ltd was put into liquidation some months after the remediation orders were put against it by the Land & Environment Court, and it was approximately ten years before Iron Gates Pty Ltd was finally wrapped up. While in liquidation Iron Gates Pty Ltd and the developer brought a suit against Richmond Valley Council and 10 other parties and were required to put up very large sureties for those parties in the event that Iron Gates Pty Ltd (in liquidation) and the developer lost their suit.
    Time to come clean Tweed Shire Councillors and look after the interests of your ratepayers and residents by telling them why you made your decision which will have them out-of-pocket.
    Dr Richard Gates Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Committee Inc.


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