Council calls in lawyers

Hume City council . Photo by Damjan Janevski. 228421_02

By Oliver Lees

Hume council will seek legal advice about applying for an injunction to prevent contracts relating to the disposal of West Gate Tunnel soil being signed before its legal challenge is heard.

Last week councillors voted to ask council’s lawyers about applying for an injunction to prevent Transurban and Planning Minister Richard Wynne from signing contracts which would enable toxic soil to be dumped in Bulla.

Following the approval of Hi-Quality’s planning scheme amendment in March by Mr Wynne, the builders of the West Gate Tunnel Project, CPB-John Holland, currently have the legal option to use Hi-Quality’s site on Sunbury Road to test and dispose of three million tonnes of soil.

The decision is the subject of a Supreme Court challenge by the council.

A planning scheme amendment has also been approved Maddingley Brown Coal’s site in Bacchus Marsh. Transurban will have the final say on where the soil will be taken.

Speaking at a meeting last week, councillor Jodi Jackson said that seeking further legal advice was an appropriate next step.

“This motion is not asking council to seek an injunction,” Cr Jackson said.

“It is only asking that council seek legal advice, in the same way that officers sought legal advice on the judicial review process.

“I think it is pertinent that we do seek advice, because we certainly do need it at this stage.”

Cr Jackson added that this would provide council with context into the injunctive process, council’s prospects for success and the potential risks of taking such legal action.

Cr Trevor Dance said council would be “neglectful” not to pursue all legal options available.

Cr Carly Moore also supported the motion, but said it was important to note the financial risk involved in the decision.

“If the judicial review is unsuccessful, council may be liable for the losses suffered while the injunction is in place, which would likely run into the millions,” Cr Moore said.

“All councillors need to be aware of the seriousness of these decisions and must consider the significant risks of this proposal for all Hume residents, and the long term viability of our council.”

Also speaking in support of the motion, Cr Kurt said the original decision to explore a judicial review instead of an injunction came after receiving guidance from legal professionals.

“It is important for the community to understand as well, the decision that we wanted to see the judicial review was not something that we just decided overnight,” Cr Kurt said.

“We went through a number of different options as well, in regards to potentially seeking an injunction… challenging contracts, seeking a parliamentary intervention… and the one recommendation was… seeking a judicial review.”

Monash University law professor Jeff Giddings told Star Weekly an injunction often entails a quick turn around.

“Injunctions are important in stopping things that can’t be undone, like knocking down a building or removing a tree,” Professor Giddings said.

“They can also be hard to get.

“It’s often done within a short time frame and this can add to the expense involved.”