Weeds inaction claim in lawsuit
BATTLING farmers are suing Townsville City Council, alleging it failed to control noxious weeds that have been spreading on to their private grazing land.
Fran O’callaghan and her husband Peter Bucknell have lived and worked on their property at Woodstock, called Mount Flagstone, for almost 23 years.
Mrs O’callaghan said she had been trying to get the council to undertake noxious weed control works on the Rowe Rd reserve, which borders her property, for almost a decade.
Queensland Magistrates Court documents reveal Mrs O’callaghan and her husband have lodged a statement of claim seeing more than $55,000 in damages for private nuisance or alternatively negligence on the council’s behalf.
Chinee apple, rubber vine and lantana are the noxious weeds referred to in the documentation, which claims the council had detailed knowledge of the infestation of the hazardous plants on Rowe Rd and of the severe effect it had on the graziers’ property.
The money being sought is stated to account for the cost of clean-up and weed control of the graziers’ property and to mitigate the losses incurred by Mrs Callaghan and Mr Bucknell.
A Townsville City Council official said the council would contest the lawsuit. “Council will be defending this claim and we do not accept liability for controlling weeds on state-owned land such as the road network,” the official said.
A letter to Mrs O’callaghan dated March 10, 2017, from the office of then Minister for Agriculture Bill Byrne’s office and signed by chief of staff Tim Grau, stated the council was “responsible for weed management along roads and on road reserves in your (Mrs O’callaghan’s) area, other than the Flinders Highway and Giru-woodstock Rd”.
Mrs O’callaghan argues this proves the council is required to take effective steps to control the weeds.
“Council is perfectly happy to spend ratepayer money enforcing other people’s obligations but it won’t do its part of the job,” Mrs O’callaghan said.
“I would not be at all surprised to find we are not the only landholders council is walking all over.
“Why can’t they spend the thousands of dollars they are prepared to pay their lawyer on cleaning up weeds?”
The council official said a previous case brought by the complainants on the matter was struck out by the court in June last year, in the council’s favour.
Mrs O’callaghan and Mr Bucknell represented themselves at that legal proceeding and feel they were unfairly taken advantage of by the council’s legal team.
This time they have hired Brisbane-based barrister David Laws as their representative.
CLEAN-UP CLAIM: Grazier Fran O'callaghan at Mount Flagstaff Station at Woodstock.