None left unscathed in Gympie plan case ruling
A CLAIMED conflict of interest by Gympie Regional Council CEO Bernard Smith and debatable legal advice from Gympie planner Mike Hartley were factors in a court decision which last week awarded thousands of dollars in costs against one of Mr Hartley's clients, Dierdre Gray of Gympie Solar Centre.
No-one emerged unscathed from last week's Planning and Environment Court ruling, in which Judge HP Bowskill awarded costs of more than $9000 to the council in witness expenses alone, not counting legal fees, court costs and council wages.
The Solar Centre business had been deemed by the council to be operating in breach of the town planning scheme at its Violet St premises, part of a residential area close to the Bruce Hwy and to industrial and commercial land use areas.
Mr Hartley had advised that the case could be appealed and Ms Gray had started proceedings on that basis, but had sought to discontinue them after solicitor Michael Connor advised that she had a less than 50% chance of succeeding, Judge Bowskill said in his decision.
Mr Hartley had described the solicitor's view as "significantly more pessimistic” than his, the judge said.
A notice discontinuing the case was served on the council on July 29. The council had complied with a direction to engage witnesses.
Although Mr Connor had advised Ms Gray on July 6 of her "less than 50%" prospects, the judge said "no steps were taken to stop the council complying with the directions, or incurring costs and expenses, until July 26.” Costs were awarded as compensation to the council, not punishment for Ms Gray, he said.