Nambucca councillor Rhonda Hoban.
Nambucca councillor Rhonda Hoban.

Court defeat costly for ratepayers

NAMBUCCA councillors and staff were still smarting on Thursday night about the success of a legal challenge against the council’s handling of a development application for a subdivision at Valla.

Last month, the Land and Environment Court upheld an application lodged by the Nambucca valley Conservation Authority (NVCA) and ordered the council to pay 60 per cent of the association’s legal costs.

The bill is not yet in but council fears the case could cost it as much as $60,000.

Councillor Brian Finlayson, a solicitor, said the result was no great environmental outcome.

“The applicant (NVCA) failed to win any of its environmental arguments against the subdivision on East West Road and only won on mechanical points related to our advertising of the DA,” Cr Finlayson said. “All the NVCA succeeded in doing was costing council around $60,000, or the rates revenue we get from 60 properties.”

The mayor, Cr Rhonda Hoban, said council had no choice but to address the challenge put by the NVCA and funded by legal Aid and the Environmental Defenders Office.

“I feel very sorry for the developer who put his faith in council’s processes,” she said.

Council’s director of planning and environment, Greg Meyers, defended his handling of the DA.

“Under the DCP we were applying at the time I did have the discretion to proceed without advertising,” he said.

Cr John Ainsworth joined Cr Finlayson in praising the actions of council staff.

“I have always had concerns about third party action that costs the litigants nothing. If someone has an issue with a consent then they should put up some of their own money,” Cr Ainsworth said.

Earlier Cr Paula Flack was put under pressure by Cr Mike Moran to justify her position.

While she admitted she was the president of the NVCA when the subdivision DA came before council and a member of the association when it was drawing up the basis of its legal challenge, Cr Flack strenuously denied she had at any time acted improperly.

She said at all times she had consulted with the general manager about any potential conflicts.

Cr Hoban said she took little solace from the fact the environmental concerns of the NVCA were not upheld.

It is not known if the developer of the subdivision will proceed given he will likely be required to pay for another environmental assessment.

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