Record shows appeals just a lawyers’ picnic

DEVELOPERS could potentially save Gladstone Regional Council ratepayers hundreds of thousands of dollars if they realised it was usually futile to push appeals all the way to a higher court.

The council will roll out MRH lawyers again this Thursday hoping to keep intact a 100% record of successfully defending development application decisions in the Planning and Environment Court. But it has cost $1.35 million in legal fees - ratepayers' money - over the past five years to prove its decisions were right.

On Thursday Great Northern Developers will bring an appeal on a multiple unit complex on 9 Shaw St in New Auckland to court for the 10th time since the case was filed in March.

Company director Christopher Hawkins stated in his affidavit the company was challenging the pending expiry of the approval it had previously been given by the council.

The company was unaware the approval would expire and reapplying for the permits would cost more money and time.

It had already spent around $700,000 in lodgment and assessment fees and consultants to get the original approvals.

If a court ruling is needed, Great Northern might want to consider the odds against it.

In the past four years the council has had 37 decisions appealed. It won five in court, eight were still active, 12 were discontinued and 10 times an agreement was made on the last day of mediation. And that is probably the point of an appeal - a developer's best chance is in a mediated resolution.

Gantt Legal's Cliff Wirz, who specialises in planning application appeals, said few got to a hearing but ratepayers still had to supply lawyers to mediate from the start of the appeal.

"They mediate to find what issues in the application can be changed, whether it is traffic, acoustics or town planning," he said.

Mayor Gail Sellers said council didn't know what to budget for lawyers to fight appeals against its decisions.

"Council must defend the planning on grounds on which its decisions are made, in addition ensuring each application has followed the correct legal process."

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