Tweed Council's legal costs soar

TWEED shire Council’s annual legal bill has soared through the one-million-dollar barrier for the first time ever - more than double what it was five years ago.

Two major court cases pushed the legal costs towards the sky - a fight with developer Metricon which wanted to build a large shopping centre with a major supermarket in Seabreeze estate at Pottsville, and a prolonged battle with Tweed accountant Terry Sharples over rates rises.

The council won both cases but the Seabreeze battle alone cost the council $473,985 and it appears to have little prospect of recovering any costs.

The council’s corporate services director Troy Green said yesterday the council had “explored avenues for costs”, but in such an appeal being awarded costs was “very, very rare”.

In the Terry Sharples case, the court ordered Mr Sharples to pay the council one third of its costs amounting to $280,776.

But Mr Green said Mr Sharples had “not to date paid any of the costs” as he had lodged an appeal against the costs order.

“Generally speaking, legal costs in totality this year are within Council budget estimates,” Mr Green said.

Despite the near half-million-dollar cost of the Seabreeze battle, Pottsville Beach Business Association president Tania Murdock, who fought against Metricon’s plans, said it was money well spent.

The NSW Land and Environment Court dismissed Metricon’s case appealing a “deemed refusal” of the shopping centre which Mrs Murdock had argued was too big and would have a detrimental effect on Pottsville’s existing business hub.

“When it comes down to looking after their coastal community and standing by all the planning strategies they have done, what are they going to do?” she said. “Obviously they have to stand up and be strong.

“Otherwise what would be the use of all the money they spend on those documents and the time everyone puts into them?”

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