Ballina bill busts by $60,000

BALLINA Shire Council's legal costs forplanning matters in the 2009/10 financial year are expected to exceed the allocated budget by up to $60,000.

But the overall amount spent on legal matters – estimated to be about $300,000 – is still far less than the previous financial year when the council forked out $629,000.

Ongoing costs include the appeal in the NSW Land and Environment Court of the RamadaHotel change of use application.

So far the council has paid $28,000 in legal fees for that case, but has estimated it could cost up to $150,000 to finalise the matter.

General manager Paul Hickey said it was hard to predict how much the council would spend on court cases.

“We have a budget which is normally a couple of hundred thousand dollars,” he said.

“Sometimes we spend more than that, sometimes we spend less.

“Any coastal council faces these same types of issues.

“Land values have increased substantially and the cost of taking legal action, from a developer's point of view, is sometimes worth that expense.”

The council expects to recoup about $250,000 from the Homeworld court case and $63,000 from a case relating to access to the Gunundi centre.

Earlier this month, Lismore City Councilfinance manager Rino Santin admitted most of their budget deficit had come from higher legal costs, largely as a result of court action over Champions Quarry.

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