The Beagle Editor
The Huntfest matter the use of Crown Lands – Public and Community lands and the NCAT involvement because of a freedom of information ( GIPPA ) request for information seems to have developed into unnecessary costs that will be paid for by all the Shire Residents and Ratepayers. The request for information seems to about what may have been contained in any legal advice Council claimed it sought and had in relation to approving the use of crown lands – community lands owned by us all. That legal advice? being paid for by all the shires residents and ratepayers. They own it as they do with all council assets.
Crown lands, public lands are used for a range of activities all over the shire. Some of the uses are commercial for profit and some not making a profit. A visit to Batemans Bay marina is very good example of that as well as a fish and chip shop in Batemans Bay is another very good example. Those operating businesses from Crown or Public Land usually have some sort of lease or rental arrangement. That seems to be normal, so what is the real issue with the Narooma – Jim Bright matter ?
Editors Note: The following comment by JIM BRIGHT was placed well down in a previous article and may well be missed by many readers. It is added here so that it can be read in context with the above Letter and allow fresh conversation to a most important matter Allan, I'm not sure why the NCAT matter has been brought up but, since it has, I will provide the following summary of what has occurred to date in respect of the 'Huntfest' matter that is presently before that tribunal (the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal). Early last year I lodged a 'freedom of information' request, under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009, with the Council for a copy of the (so called) tender that the South Coast Hunters Club had submitted in support of its application to hire the Huntfest site in Narooma for the period 2018 to 2022. I lodged that request because the Council had (in my view) illegally closed the meeting of 22 March 2016 to the public and had improperly prevented the community's access to the hunters club's application. The ESC rejected my request (on, what was obvious to me, totally flawed reasoning) and so I appealed to the NSW Information Commissioner against that decision. In May 2016, the Information Commissioner issued a 13 page decision pointing out the many flaws in the Council's decision and requested the Council to reconsider its rejection of my request for a copy of the club's application. (Unfortunately, decisions of the Information Commission are not binding and the Commission can but point to the flaws that an agency has made and request a reconsideration of the disputed decision. In most cases, government agencies take heed of the Commission's views and reverse their earlier decisions.) However the ESC again rejected my application.I then appealed that decision to NCAT. (NCAT decisions are binding on the Council.) This appeal has been making its way through the NCAT process since January and is likely to produce an outcome sometime in the next couple of months. I am very confident of a favourable outcome.On the question of what this might have cost the ESC, I would make two points. First - the NCAT process has been designed in a way that enables the parties to avoid the need to have legal representation. Never-the-less, the ESC has chosen to engage its legal firm in this process. Second - in my view, had the ESC properly and fully briefed a legal advisor prior to embarking on a confidential tendering process to decide who should get to hire the Narooma site in question, it would almost certainly have been advised that such a process was inappropriate. In other words, almost all the legal costs that might have been incurred by the Council in relation to this matter were totally avoidable.