Hume council legal bid fails

(Damjan Janevski) 228421_03

Elsie Lange

Hume council may be forced to pay as much as $500,000 in legal costs to the state government after its Supreme Court challenge to the storage of spoil at Bulla was dismissed, a councillor estimates.

The council took legal action to review a decision by the Planning Minister Richard Wynne which allowed for the testing and disposal of contaminated soil at a site in Bulla.

At a meeting on Monday, May 24, council voted unanimously to note the Supreme Court’s judgment, in which Justice Melinda Richards ordered council to pay the defendant’s costs.

Council also noted to make “provision for the payment of these costs in the 2022-23 council budget as necessary”, and not to pursue further action.

Council told Star Weekly it could not provide a figure as Mr Wynne had not yet advised costs, Cr Jack Medcraft said the legal challenge could cost ratepayers more than $500,000.

“We were never going to win. Basically, you’re putting ratepayers’ money at risk to have such action,” Cr Medcraft said.

“As it’s turned out, we could be up for half a million dollars or more. That money could have been used in a lot of places around the city of Hume.”

Star Weekly reported in April last year that Hume councillors voted unanimously to have the council’s lawyers initiate legal proceedings to review Mr Wynne’s decision.

Council had estimated costs would be between $100,000 to $200,000, “but could be higher”.

“If the application for a judicial review is not successful, there is a risk that the Supreme Court could require that council pay the costs incurred by the minister for planning,” council said.

Cr Medcraft said he hoped Mr Wynne would decide not to recoup legal fees from the council.

“Hopefully the minister decides that he’s not going to penalise us for standing up and asking questions for why he did what he did,” Cr Medcraft said.

“I don’t agree with what he did, but at the end of the day, the government’s the government and they make the decisions and you have to abide by them.”