Council seeks protection

WELLINGTON Shire Council will seek protection from litigation over future coastal planning decisions.

At the instigation of Cr Malcolm Hole council will submit a motion for inclusion in the agenda of the Municipal Association of Victoria’s State Council meeting.

Cr Hole’s notice of motion proposed the state government indemnify councils from legal liability when they make planning decisions in relation to development applications in coastal areas where such decisions comply with state government planning controls.

“This is a fairly serious motion,” Cr Hole declared.

“I had the good fortune to represent council at the coastal council’s conference in Hobart, and one of the things that has been playing on the councils from around Australia’s minds has been the legal liability for any challenges that may come from councils making decisions that are reversed,” he said.

Cr Hole outlines the case of a New South Wales coastal council facing a challenge to planning decisions made 35 years ago.

“Whilst council has their planning controls it’s the state government that directs those planning controls, it’s the state government that has the money and the scientific knowledge to put into place to make the decision. As we know we are planning with a 0.8 metre rise in sea level. The problem is if we go the way (indicated by) the legal experts that were at the conference, we have a problem,” Cr Hole said.

He quoted from a senior environmental legal firm’s report on addressing the risk associated with coastal planning and suggested council needed to “move it further up the line.”

“We need to get some strength behind us, so I’m hoping when we get to the state conference we are able to put our case because around the rest of the nation other states will be doing likewise,” he said.