IN A battle reminiscent of Darryl Kerrigan taking on Melbourne Airport in the Aussie movie classic The Castle, the NSW Supreme Court has ruled that invalid pensioner Christine Anderson was denied natural justice by Lismore City Council when it sold her home earlier this year to recoup unpaid rates.
After two days of hearing, it took less than 25 minutes for the Supreme Court’s Justice Brereton to declare the auction of Ms Anderson’s South Lismore house in May was unlawful and that she could remain in her home of 20 years.
“I just burst into tears when I heard, I was just so overwhelmed and so thankful,” Ms Anderson said yesterday on the steps of what is once again legally her home.
Lismore council sold Ms Anderson’s house as vacant procession at auction to recover unpaid rates totalling $16,000, including interest.
Although the judgement has yet to be released, Justice Brereton ruled that the council had denied Ms Anderson natural justice.
During the hearing, the court heard Ms Anderson had already begun a payment plan and that the council never personally contacted her before the sale.
A council spokeswoman said yesterday the council would make a statement once it had fully considered the ruling.
Councillors voted seven to three to change the procedure of selling homes to recoup rates at its regular meeting last Tuesday, following widespread community backlash since the Northern Star reported the circumstances of the sale.
Yesterday Ms Anderson said she was overwhelmed by the support she received, including people who stopped her on the street to wish her well after recognising her from newspaper photographs.
“There are so many people I want to thank: my friends David and Robin (who took up her cause with council last October), my son, Trish from Council Watch, my lawyer Bridget from the Northern Rivers Community Legal Service, Legal Aid and all my doctors,” she said, fighting back tears of gratitude.
Ms Anderson, whose case was funded by Legal Aid, said she felt the council had chosen to make an example of her because it knew she didn’t have funds to fight the case.
As the Northern Star revealed in June, Ms Anderson was listed 10th of the council’s worst 20 rate debtors.