Court defeat costs council $115k

NAMBUCCA Shire Council has revealed it is now facing bills well in excess of $100,000 after earlier this year losing a case in the Land and Environment Court.

The Nambucca Valley Conservation Association (NVCA) engaged the Environmental Defender’s Office (EDO) to take the council to task over its approval of a rural subdivision at Valla.

Despite none of the environmental issues challenged by the NVCA being upheld, the court found that council had failed to meet its procedural obligations.

The subdivision was rejected and the council was ordered to pay 60 per cent of the NVCA’s legal costs.

Those costs have now come in at $35,290 and are in addition to the council’s own legal costs of $35,000 for a barrister and $45,000 for a solicitor.

Councillors are angry with the bill approaching $115,000.

“This has been a complete waste of time and money and is an absolute disgrace,” Cr Brian Finlayson said.

“None of the environmental concerns of the Conservation Association was upheld and the case was only determined on a procedural issue that none of the parties had taken into account,” he said.

“We have effectively lost the rates of 100 ratepayers on a legal loophole. I can now only hope that the findings of the court case assist the applicant when he re-lodges the DA for the subdivision.”

Mayor Rhonda Hoban said the case highlighted a problem facing all councils.

“It shows how difficult it is for councils to be decision makers on DA’s when we don’t have the legal expertise of those people who determine issues like this in court,” Cr Hoban said.

The council is now challenging the EDO’s $35,000 legal bill by disputing some of the costs it claims to have incurred.

It has also resolved to investigate how the EDO functions and is funded.

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