Members of the Redlands class action against the Redland City Council have experienced their first triumph in the Supreme Court this week, following years of lobbying.
The claim against the Redland City Council (RCC) was originally filed in October 2018, after the council advised Redland ratepayers that a canal maintenance levy that was imposed was invalid. While the Council refunded part of the money raised, Shine Lawyers commenced proceedings on behalf of ratepayers to recover the remaining amount.
Shine Lawyers’ special counsel, Tristan Gaven, said that the win would serve as a valuable reminder of the accountability of the RCC.
“1650 canal and lakefront property owners are owed a full refund for the invalidly raised levies. We brought this action years ago, to ensure ratepayers’ money is back in ratepayers’ pockets. This win is a testament to people power and what standing up for what you’re owed, can achieve,” he said.
“It’s about accountability and council doing right by its ratepayers.”
Simon and Sarah Akero, who have lived at their lakeside property for twenty years, were disappointed by the revelation that Redland City Council was operating without transparency.
“This is a win for the community. Ratepayers have taken back a bit of control over the levies imposed by the council,” Mr Akero said.
“Transparency is really important when councils are charging the community an unjust fee. This will make councils think about what they’re asking residents for, and will ensure that there is accountability for every dollar asked of us in future.”
In the judgment, the court ruled that the levy fees charged were invalid – and that the RCC has no legal right or entitlements to any of the payments made by Redland ratepayers.
“The Council had no right to use or retain any part of the special charges. Its right to levy them in a rate notice (and the group members’ attendant obligation to pay them) was conferred at the price of the Council being obliged to return them to the payers as soon as practicable. The Council's liability to return the money is statutory,” it states.
“By spending the funds on works in the canals or the lake, the Council could not create an equity preventing the plaintiffs and the other group members from enforcing the Council’s statutory obligation to return them. It has retained funds to which it has no entitlement.”
To be eligible to join the class action, funded by Augusta Ventures, you must have lived in the Redland local government area and been subject to a special levy fee in relation to canal or waterways maintenance, including marina special charges in the period from 2011 to 2017.
“Augusta is very pleased to work with Shine Lawyers in this matter with its funding helping to promote access to justice,” said Augusta’s managing director, Neill Brennan.
This class action is the first win for any class action in the Queensland Supreme Court. It is the second class action to be heard in Queensland.