Erosion battle to cost a fortune
THE Greens running Byron Shire Council have been accused of hiding behind their insurance company and trying to dodge responsibility for their hugely costly legal battles.
Byron United deputy chairman James Lancaster’s comments follow calls for the council to resign after the Land and Environment Court endorsed an agreement on Monday between it and Belongil Beach homeowner John Vaughan.
Mr Vaughan said he was relieved this ‘technical’ stage of the litigation was over – and that the court action had been a colossal waste of time and money for everyone involved.
But Mr Lancaster said he was ‘not at all thrilled’ by the fact that the action had cost Byron’s ratepayers a fortune.
“This is a council that can’t compromise and can’t negotiate – and it is the community that has to pay,” Mr Lancaster said.
However, a council officer said the protracted legal wrangle would not cost Byron ratepayers a cent.
General manager Graeme Faulkner said public concerns about costs were ‘unfounded’.
The court had made no orders on costs arising from the proceedings, Mr Faulkner said.
He said any legal costs involved – estimated to be as much as $1 million – would be paid by the council’s insurers.
Council was indemnified by its insurers for all costs associated with this case and any related case that might arise, he said.
“Since June 29, 2009, council has only been responsible for a $12,500 excess on the policy; all costs are being met by the insurers, not shire ratepayers,” he said.
Mr Faulkner said the council’s yearly insurance premium would also not increase as a result of yesterday’s agreement.
“Council is a member of a mutual scheme along with numerous other New South Wales local councils. It is a blanket policy,” he said.
Mr Faulkner also denied the court ruling was a ‘win’ for Mr Vaughan.
The agreement did not affect any other public or private property at Belongil Beach nor did it set a precedent, he said.
Mr Vaughan is considering whether to pursue a separate Supreme Court action for damages.
If he were to go ahead, council had been advised by its insurers they were ‘very confident of a win’, Mr Faulkner said
He also said the Land and Environment Court ruling had no impact on the councils ‘planned retreat’ policy.