REVEALED: Ballina council’s skyrocketing legal costs
ONGOING battles with developers have seen Ballina Shire Council's legal bills skyrocket over the past three years.
According to a report on the most recent legal matters, council staff acknowledged that costs had been "exceptionally high".
In 2017-18 the council spent $967,000 on legal costs, followed by $503,000 in 2018-19 and just over $1 million in the last financial year.
Those figures do not include lease documentation, property matters, contracts or staff time.
The council's planning and environmental health director, Matthew Wood, said staff always tried to work proactively with developers to overcome potential issues in an effort to avoid court proceedings.
"We would prefer not to go through a court process; the costs add up exponentially," he said.
"The other disadvantage of the court process is that it can take a considerable amount of time to get to a resolution ‒ months or even years."
According to a report to councillors, the major increase in costs has been "primarily due to council's ongoing legal cases with Intrapac, with approximately $1.6 million in legal costs incurred in respect to their developments during the last four years".
More than $750,000 has also been spent on a DA stoush with Palm Lake, but an order on costs in council's favour has not yet been determined.
Mr Wood said Intrapac had also commenced a challenge on the developer contributions at the new Aureus estate at Skennars Head.
That is expected to cost at least another $250,000.