Belongil Beach resident John Vaughn, who won a landmark legal case against Byron Shire Council over beach erosion works.
Belongil Beach resident John Vaughn, who won a landmark legal case against Byron Shire Council over beach erosion works.

Belongil case costs still argued

BYRON Shire Council’s general manager, Graeme Faulkner, has been accused of keeping ratepayers in the dark over legal costs in the long-running battle with Belongil residents John and Anne Vaughan over beach erosion protection works.

In last week’s Byron Shire News, Mr Faulkner said all council’s legal costs associated with the case now and in the future would be met by insurers – not ratepayers – except for a $12,500 excess incurred since June 29, 2009.

But Ian Evans, from the Byron Preservation Association, said Mr Faulkner appeared to have forgotten some facts.

“Mr Faulkner has forgotten to mention that prior to taking out legal insurance, which came into effect on June 29 last year, the council had already racked up legal costs of $281,423.38 in the Vaughan matter in the Land and Environment Court,” he said.

“It’s all there in the council’s annual report for 2008-09, Section 9.1.

“Mr Faulkner might usefully read this document before making further statements which have the effect of soothing those gullible souls in the community who think that you can mount such cases out of the petty cash tin.”

Last week, a Land and Environment Court-approved agreement was reached between the council and the Vaughans.

Under the agreement, the council will monitor, maintain and repair interim beach stabilisation works on its land in Manfred Street at Belongil Beach, adjacent to the Vaughans’ property.

Council will also re-establish sand behind the existing Geotech sandbags in line with its own development consent of November, 2001, to the height and shape of the dune before the major storm which triggered the court case.

Also under the agreement, the Vaughans are ‘entitled but not obliged to’ maintain and repair the Geotech sandbag wall in front of their property.

Mr Faulkner said the outcome was not a ‘win’ for the Vaughans.

But John Vaughan disagreed.

“Of course it’s a win. What a joke for him to say it’s not,” Mr Vaughan said.

Mr Faulkner said the costs associated with the recent Land and Environment Court case on Belongil had been documented in the 2008/09 annual report.

He said the annual report noted about $281,000 for all legal costs associated with proceedings relating to Belongil.

“From 29 June 2009, all legal costs associated with issues relating to the recent Belongil case in Land and Environment Court have been meet by council’s insurers.”



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