Bennetts Rd Detension Basin takes shape at the base of Red Hill. Photo: Rob Wright / The Coffs Coast Advocate
Bennetts Rd Detension Basin takes shape at the base of Red Hill. Photo: Rob Wright / The Coffs Coast Advocate Rob Wright

Council accused of ‘bullying’ landowners

COFFS Harbour council began building the Bennetts Rd flood retention basin months before the Minister for Local Government approved land acquisitions, landowner Paul Hay told councillors on Thursday.

Mr Hay said contrary to the Land Acquisition (Just Terms) Compensation Act, work began on June 1, 2012, although the minister did not approve the land acquisitions until December 2012, by which time the dam wall was been constructed.

Mr Hay wants the council to buy his 1ha property in Bennetts Rd in place of the easement the council has placed on about 37% of his land, which he said had made it unsalable, uninsurable and difficult to rent.

In his public address to the councillors, Mr Hay complained of bullying and unethical behaviour by council representatives, behaviour he said included telling one landholder that all other parties had signed, which was not true and reneging on verbal assurances the council would buy their land at full market value.

Mayor Denise Knight, who chaired the meeting, allowed Mr Hay extra time to complete his address.

Intense confidential discussions on compensation for Mr and Mrs Hay ended where they began after a majority of councillors rejected both a proposal to buy the property and a proposal to investigate the processes used for land acquisition.

Councillor Nan Cowling moved the council agree to negotiate to buy 38 Bennetts Rd from Paul and Arabella Hay at valuation, due to the ongoing financial burden caused by the construction.

Councillor John Arkan then moved an amendment that general manager Steve McGrath initiate an independent review of the allegations, deferring consideration of Cr Cowling's notice of motion until the review was complete.

Deputy Mayor Rodney Degens did not take part in the discussion as he had to leave the meeting early.

Watching the discussion was Cathy Mackay, who is negotiating with the council to buy the retention basin land owned by her parents, Barry and Norma Mackay, in place of the council's preferred easement.



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