Newspaper article Fraser Coast Chronicle (Hervey Bay, Australia)

Court Rules Rates Invalid; Council CEO Seeking Legal Advice after Landmark Case

Newspaper article Fraser Coast Chronicle (Hervey Bay, Australia)

Court Rules Rates Invalid; Council CEO Seeking Legal Advice after Landmark Case

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom Snowdon

THOUSANDS of Fraser Coast ratepayers could be entitled to a refund after a landmark court ruling found the council failed to properly issue its annual rates and charges.

The astounding ruling came after the council took former Tiaro Mayor Linda Harris' company Linville Holdings to court over unpaid rates.

The rural services company successfully argued its rates bills were invalid because council failed to pass the separate resolution each year.

Lawyer David Hinton, who ran the winning case, told The Courier-Mail the decision arguably affected "every ratepayer" in the Fraser Coast region.

"I'd suspect that if people think they may have a chance of getting out of paying some rates they'll probably jump at the opportunity," Mr Hinton said.

"It's not necessarily an issue that's restricted just to this council region. It could obviously apply to other councils as well."

The decision has the potential to leave councils exposed to a multimillion-dollar rates refund of money that has already been spent, unless there is a retrospective law change or successful court appeal.

Fraser Coast Regional Council CEO Ken Diehm said council was seeking legal advice about appealing the decision.

"Until a final determination on this matter is made, the community is encouraged to continue to make payment on rates and charges levied by council to avoid penalties that may apply," Mr Diehm said.

Costs are yet to be decided.

A Local Government Association of Queensland spokesman said the organisation believed there were no implications for other councils from the decision.

"But we will be investigating it further," the spokesman said.

Legal experts warn the decision could leave other Queensland councils exposed to refunds if they didn't pass an annual resolution to levy rates and charges. …

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