By BELINDA SCOTT
THE owner of an Arrawarra property, Michael Hickey, says Coffs Harbour City Council spent an enormous amount of ratepayers' money pursuing him through the Land and Environment Court over 'a storm in a teacup'.
And Coffs Harbour City Council was forced to drink the bitter cup when the Land and Environment Court found in his favour.
Council has now decided not to appeal or to pursue contractor Kim Perkins, whose firm carried out the clearing for Mr Hickey.
Planning, environment and development director for Coffs Harbour City Council, Gina Vereker, said council had believed it had a strong case.
She said she was deeply disappointed with the verdict, especially since the council had done so much publicity about clearing land without consent and substantial clearing had taken place in this case.
The council took Michael Hickey to the Land and Environment Court for illegal clearing of trees on land at Lot 1, Arrawarra Road after Mr Hickey asked contractors to clear weeds, lantana and regrowth on the property in June last year. Part of the land is zoned 7A environmental protection.
But on September 29 this year the court found that the Hickeys did not cause the tree removal and were not vicariously liable and that the trees were removed by independent contractors, who Mr Hickey had relied on.
Ms Vereker said all clearing on 7A land, even of noxious weeds, required council approval to ensure the right methods were used and there would be no environmental damage.
Mr Hickey said he had tried to explain to council that the tree removal was a mistake.