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’.
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.’
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.’
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.’