Fears over Hearnes legal action

COFFS Harbour City councillor John Arkan is questioning why the council should take legal action against the Hearnes Lake development approval.

Cr Arkan – who said he had no financial or other interest in the development – said he was speaking out because he was worried the council was considering taking on the State Government in the Land and Environment Court, "using the public purse for this risky litigation".

In December, Planning Minister Tony Kelly approved the 200-lot subdivision on a low-lying coastal site against the wishes of the council which had argued for the controversial Sandy Shores project to be limited to only 35 lots.

The green light was also a slap in the face for the many vocal protesters in the community.

“The community needs to be aware that unfortunately Part 3a (concept plan approvals under State Government legislation) states that third parties and objectors have a limited and confined litigation avenue,” Cr Arkan said.

“That means that under merit review, we can not challenge things like flooding issues, endangered ecological communities and fauna.

“Under a judicial review, the only thing that can be questioned is the length of time for advertising this application.

“If council goes to court . . . the losing party must pay costs and damages. Going to court, nobody can guarantee the outcome of success for council.

“It is possible that if council loses, then it is liable for costs and damages to the Department of Planning and possibly the developer.

“I have no wish to make the developer wealthy with community funds.”

Cr Arkan said he wanted the council to assess the risk and quantify the costs it and other parties faced in the event it lost in the court and for this to be made public.

“My concerns are fundamentally about Coffs Harbour,” Cr Arkan said.

“Not only are the costs incurred on a day to day basis with regards to projects but more so opportunity lost.”

Cr Arkan said there appeared to be a culture of out-of-control spending at the council ‘when we don’t have the money’.

“Poor planning is and will be affecting Coffs Harbour,” he said.

“Hearnes Lake is only one area of concern. We must remember that correct planning leads to employment opportunities.

“Investment in revitalisation of infrastructure will also do this. Priorities have to be planning, employment and investment.

“Why are Coffs Harbour ratepayers possibly funding this legal action. It’s all public purse.”

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