Weeds in­ac­tion claim in law­suit

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - SAM BIDEY [email protected]

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.

Pic­ture: EVAN MOR­GAN

CLEAN-UP CLAIM: Gra­zier Fran O'callaghan at Mount Flagstaff Sta­tion at Woodstock.

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