MyBribieIsland (MBI) receives comments and feedback on a wide range of issues and one of these is that of questionable decision making by MBRC. Without doubt, one notable example that has been brought to MBI’s attention is that involving Toorbul Marine – a boat building and repair business operated by Heather Loader and Doug Cuthbert on a property adjacent to Elimbah Creek in Toorbul. This business had been operated on that site for decades before it was purchased by Doug and Heather in 2002. The previous owners had applied for, and received, environmental approval under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld) to conduct that business. On acquiring the business, Doug and Heather applied to have the environmental approval transferred and the application for transfer of the environmental approval was granted. In 2007, Council claimed the environmental approval had been granted in error and applied to have it withdrawn. In 2008, Council issued Doug and Heather with an Enforcement Notice which effectively meant that Doug and Heather could no longer conduct their business on that site. “That was the start of years of hell for us,” comments Heather. “We were under surveillance by Council officers day after day and week after week. They were even here on Sundays sitting in their cars watching us. It would have cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars for the wages for those staff.”
Doug and Heather appealed to the Planning and Environment Court to have the Enforcement Notice set aside but were unsuccessful. So they appealed to the Supreme Court. After an extended wait, they were finally able to argue their case. They questioned the reasons behind Council’s decision to request that the EPA set aside its environmental approval. The Court was most sympathetic to those arguments and in a 3-0 decision handed down on September 20, 2013, the Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Planning and Environment Court, and upheld Doug and Heather’s appeal. As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, Doug and Heather can begin business again. In his decision, Justice Fraser is most scathing in his comments on Council’s behaviour and he awarded costs against Council. MBRC had an opportunity to appeal Justice Fraser’s decision but chose not to do so. Doug and Heather can now make application to recover their legal costs, and can also make application for damages resulting from lost income for all those years. Potentially those costs and damages could amount to millions of dollars which MBRC taxpayers will have to pay.
Click here to read the decision of the Supreme Court written by Justice Fraser.
Click here to read the coverage of the story by Caboolture News.
So what do readers think? Why has Council engaged in such a prolonged legal battle with Doug and Heather? Why would Council start this battle in the first place? After all, the business had been operating on that site for decades with all appropriate permits. Who made the decision to wage this battle? Who made the decision to relentlessly pursue this issue for so many years? Who is taking responsibility for this decision? Was Council justified in pursuing this action against Doug and Heather and potentially exposing taxpayers to millions of dollars in costs and damages?
Are there other Toorbul Marine type stories out there that readers have about their dealings with Council?
As always, MBI is keen to hear from its readers.