Anti-DHA protesters prepare for potential legal battle
PROTESTERS against the rejected Defence Housing Australia project at Mount Lofty say they are now gearing up for a potential court battle.
The Toowoomba Regional Council overwhelmingly refused DHA's plan to build 50 lots on the old rifle range along Martini St, with councillors voting unanimously against it at a special meeting on Wednesday night.
Lawyer Jill Meibusch made an impassioned plea to councillors at the meeting, citing the unacceptable bushfire risk that existed within 500m of the development.
A DHA spokeswoman said the Federal Government-owned entity was "disappointed" with the outcome.
"While DHA respects the decision of Toowoomba Regional Council, we are disappointed that they rejected the recommendations of its officers," she said.
"We will continue to work with the council as we consider possible options."
While she praised the victory, Ms Meibusch said she expected DHA would apply to the planning and environment court, given the recent history of developers getting approvals in court after being rejected by the TRC.
"I felt I did my best to convey those to the councillors, so I just stuck to what I thought and went for it," she said.
"I think the next step for DHA would maybe be to go to court, but what I felt and heard from the councillors yesterday was that this issue of bushfire risk has changed across Australia.
"Since seeing the summer bushfires across Australia, there's been a reassessment of what we have to do as a community to prevent any tragic loss of life."
Save Mt Lofty group president Shaen Egan called on the Federal Government to officially gift the land to the council.
"It's early days yet, but the first thing we've got to do is to get the government to pull the pin on any further action on this land," he said.
OTHER REACTIONS TO DHA REJECTION
Mayor Paul Antonio, who praised the community for its "passion" on the matter, argued a court battle between the TRC and a government-owned entity would be "political unwise".
"There's an opportunity to find a good purpose for that land (now)," he said.
"There's a bit political aspect to this, so I'll be speaking to (Groom MP) John McVeigh and everyone I need to, (but) I think politically it would be very unwise (to pursue litigation)."
Dr McVeigh said he respected the decision by the council.
Deputy Mayor Geoff McDonald, who moved the motion to reject the plan, told the meeting he wasn't comfortable enough to support it.
"On the balance of what I've heard today and the journey we've been on, I struggle to support it - I just feel there is a better use for this site," he said on Wednesday.
"It will result in an unacceptable outcome for areas for ecological significance, from dust, contamination and stormwater run-off."
Along with praising the outcome, Planning and development portfolio leader Cr Bill Cahill questioned the motivation behind DHA to act as a developer.
"How is it a wholly-owned entity is arguing they are the landowner and they have the right to develop it?" he said.
"It is not in fact owned by DHA - it's crown land, therefore the people of Australia, the taxpayers, own that land.
"(If this goes to court) you've got one level of government taking another level of government to court, at expense of both the taxpayer and the ratepayer."
Many other councillors, including Rebecca Vonhoff, Kerry Shine and Carol Taylor, expressed their support for the local community against the development.