Council and Gales set for peace talks

By PETER CATON

PEACE talks aimed at halting an escalating battle between Tweed Shire Council and developer Gales Holdings which could cost ratepayers tens of millions of dollars appear possible, but only just.

Both the council's chief administrator Garry Payne and the boss of Gales Holdings Dr Stephen Segal yesterday told the Daily News they would be happy to meet and talk matters over.

But they are also wary of each other.

The council and Gales are embroiled in a series of court battles with Gales continuing to chalk up legal victories, recently winning nearly a million dollars in costs from the council and warning it is seeking damages in another case which will set a local record.

Gales wants to build a district shopping centre on the site of the old Kingscliff sewerage treatment plant despite council opposition and faces further council resistance to developing a huge area of land nearer Kingscliff.

"I'm always happy to talk in an informal or a formal way. It's in everybody's interests," said Mr Payne yesterday.

"I don't think you should ever give up on talking."

But Mr Payne warned he may not be able to discuss matters currently before the courts.

If "without prejudice talks" could be held on those matters without being in contempt of court he warned that to be successful, "this type of approach may require compromise from both parties".

Dr Segal said: "I'm happy to have a meeting", adding that often court cases were settled "with discussions before or during the court case".

"I'm happy to talk about anything whether it's before the court or not."

But Dr Segal also pointed out senior council management had previously set an onerous condition on any talks, demanding Gales "publicly apologise" for comments council officers believe slurred one of their own former town planner Douglas Jardine who last year left the council.

Mr Segal said he would not apologise "and be put in a position of perjuring myself" because he believed the comments to be true.



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