Council faces legal battle with irrigators
A GROUP of Granite Belt irrigators is taking the Southern Downs Regional Council to the Supreme Court.
A statement of claim was filed late-June by VC Catanzaro Solicitors on behalf of several irrigators.
Scurr Investments Pty Ltd, Antonio Baronio, William Taylor, Chris and Jen Wren and Pieter and Laura Hendriksen have launched the claim against the council after they opted to tear up an existing agreement.
The agreements, for the supply of treated effluent water from the Stanthorpe Wastewater Treatment Plant, were due to run for 25 years with five further five year option periods.
The plaintiffs argue that the agreements remain valid and that council has acted inappropriately in tearing up the deal.
The agreements were made with the previous Stanthorpe Shire Council under the Stanthorpe Recycled Water Scheme.
"This scheme has been operating since 2004 and without issue throughout all those years," VC Catanzaro Solicitors spokesman Michael Catanzaro told the Border Post.
"As any grower can appreciate water is the lifeblood of any farming operation and one which any grower will fight to protect.
"Our clients have invested heavily in this scheme and they are looking to enforce the terms of the Agreements to protect their existing rights and entitlements to the treated effluent water," he said.
The Supreme Court claim states the irrigators were notified back in August of last year about the impending termination.
Despite the threat of legal action, SDRC voted to move ahead and go to a tender process, where the existing irrigators, as well as new ones, could apply.
That prompted the irrigators to place notices in media, Border Post included, advising third parties, who may be interested in applying for the tender, that the existing irrigators had pre-existing rights which would be enforced in preference to any third party rights.
The irrigators have also alleged further impropriety on council's behalf.
They claim the council had overcharged them up to $80 per megalitre more, than what was agreed upon in the agreements.
Expressions of interest for new recycled water users wrapped up in October last year, but council have yet to announce who, if any, new users submitted EOI's.