Stress takes toll as pair fights council for their land

Alwyn Ehlers and Debbie Denman couldn't believe the council had taken huge chunks of their land. Here, Alwyn holds his arm to show where the land level used to be.
Alwyn Ehlers and Debbie Denman couldn't believe the council had taken huge chunks of their land. Here, Alwyn holds his arm to show where the land level used to be. Georja Ryan

FOR Alwyn Ehlers and Debbie Denman, their 26ha property at Killarney was once a perfect picture of how they would spend their retirement.

Now, the couple are fighting to get back what was theirs after the Southern Downs Regional Council excavated chunks of their land without permission.

For 16 years, the Browns Plains couple has sat on their land, planning to retire there later in life.

But when they visited the Condamine River Rd property last Easter, Mr Ehlers and Ms Denman found masses of land had been cut from the block.

The council had entered the property and taken truck-loads of dirt to allegedly repair roads around the Downs.

Mr Ehlers said he couldn't believe the council had taken the land without consulting him first.

"We had no phone calls and no letters to say what they were going to do," Mr Ehlers said.

He said initially, they were told the property was part of the roadway and the council was entitled to take whatever land it wanted.

"So we asked them to do a survey and see whether it was our land or not, and it was our land," Mr Ehlers said.

"They just assumed it was a gravel pit."

The land owners then requested the council divulge just how much land was taken and the dates it was excavated.

"The CEO said no records of materials had been taken from the property," Mr Ehlers said.

"The council hasn't seemed to take our concerns seriously until now."

The council then revealed they were in the wrong and they had taken private land.

Sections of the land where Mr Ehlers and Ms Denman wished to utilise as a road to get to the top of the block where they would build a house had also been taken to with an excavator.

"We had a natural roadway to the top area, but now you'd be lucky if you could get a truck up there or even carry a lump of timber up there," Mr Ehlers said.

Some surrounding properties have deals with the council that allow them to take some of their land to rebuild roads and the like, but Mr Ehlers said the difference was they had been asked first.

"Even if they had offered me $100 per cubic metre, I would have said no," he said.

"We don't care about the monetary value; we just want the animals and the peace and quiet."

The pair this week met with council CEO Andrew Roach and acting maintenance manager Chris Whitaker to discuss how they would be compensated for their losses.

"We want to be compensated for the stress they have caused us, the financial stress; we're at a loss now because it's de-valued the block," Ms Denman said.

"It's soured our thought of trying to resurrect it."

Mr Roach said the council was working towards solving the problem and he hoped to have a resolution when he next met with the owners mid-February.

When asked why the council took land from their property without consent, Mr Roach said it was the fault of the council for assuming the land was still operating as a gravel pit as it was in previous years before Mr Ehlers and Ms Denman purchased the land 16 years ago.

He admitted the council records to show the land was no longer a free-for-all "weren't kept very well" and therefore the council was unaware of the change of hands.

A volume survey is to be conducted on site to gauge just how much land was taken from the property.

The land owners will meet with Mr Roach again in February to discuss their next move.

Topics:  andrew roach editors picks killarney land property southern downs regional council

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