Land division fight proves costly

GAWLER Council spent nearly $90,000 fighting a local land division proposal this past financial year, a revoked confidential report has shown.

The report, titled ‘Zweck Land Management Agreement Supreme Court Appeal Update’, revealed council almost spent its entire 2015/16 legal budget, which is funded by ratepayers’ money, during a lengthy legal battle with local landowner Peter Zweck.

In 2013, Mr Zweck applied to subdivide his 32-hectare land on Bentley Road, Uleybury, from one allotment into three, with the new titles intended to be used for rural living purposes.

The land has since been the subject of appeals in the Environment, Resources and Development (ERD) Court and the Supreme Court, as the developer sought to alter a Land Management Agreement to subdivide the area.

According to the report, council spent around $90,000 fighting the land division proposal, including $25,000 defending the case in the ERD Court, $41,000 in the Supreme Court, and a $23,750 cost award payout to Mr Zweck.

Mr Zweck, who claimed farming was becoming increasingly unviable on the weed-infested land, said the legal debacle was a complete waste of ratepayers’ money.

“I felt bad about the poor use of ratepayers’ money which was occurring, and I could not believe how reckless council seemed with public money,” he said.

“Because my proposal complied with the Gawler Development Plan, and the council planners were initially in favour of it until overruled by the elected members, I decided to push ahead.

“On multiple occasions I wrote to the council CEO and mayor wishing to seek a compromise to stop this waste of money, and even offered a substantial contribution to the completion of the sealing of a local road, but never received a reply from them.”

Mr Zweck claims council also spent up to $25,000 in legal fees this financial year on the case, which came to a head in the ERD Court last August, with Judge Jack Costello ruling in council’s favour.

Judge Costello supported council’s argument that the proposed division of land would “fragment existing primary production land”, resulting in the loss of productive farmland.

However, Mr Zweck believes his sub-division proposal could have boosted the local economy by bringing new families into the area.

“I believe that allowing more small subdivisions like this would stimulate the local economy with jobs, and would certainly increase the ratable base for council,” he said.

“An opportunity has been missed to ensure that this land would remain very low-density housing forever, as the land next door is owned by the State Government, which will, surely, rezone the land and sell it to a developer one day.”

Gawler Council was contacted for comment, but was unable to provide a response before deadline.

Laura Tilley

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Laura Tilley joined The Bunyip team after completing her Bachelor of Journalism at the University of South Australia and working at sister newspaper The Murray Pioneer, Renmark, recently. Laura undertook a student exchange to the UK, where she studied journalism courses at the University of Worcester. She completed several stints across different media outlets where she found her passion for journalism.

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