'Ridiculous' Council-Wagners dispute to get mediator
SPEND millions on lawsuits if you want to, but it might be money down the drain.
That's the advice a judge has given warring Wagner Investments and Toowoomba Regional Council.
The construction company went to court over council infrastructure charges for services including stormwater discharge.
A labyrinthine legal dispute was aired in Brisbane's Planning and Environment Court on Thursday.
Judge Willliam Everson said a "plethora” of litigation had emerged about disputes which should have been negotiated.
"I just think this is ridiculous, to be honest,” he said.
The court heard issues discussed on Thursday related to $1.2million in charges.
More broadly, about $2million across 10 separate appeals was at stake.
The judge said an experienced mediator could bring Wagners and the council together.
"Otherwise, you can all spend millions of dollars litigating ... it just seems pointless,” Judge Everson said.
"I want someone of substantial stature and experience ... who's got the forensic background for this type of dispute.”
Judge Everson told both sides to "resolve the whole dispute or at least narrow the issues”.
He said the 10 appeals posed different challenges to different infrastructure charges.
The court heard argument about whether the council was trying to apply charges that were too simplistic.
One dispute needed traffic engineers to carry out modelling in order to calculate the right charge.
In October, Wagners chairman Denis Wagner said the firm would take business elsewhere unless charges were made fairer.
After Thursday's hearing, his brother John Wagner said the council had made no effort to change charges since then, but he still hoped "common sense” would prevail.
"We agree that we've got to work together with the council to try and sort the issues,” Mr Wagner said.
"As has been the case from the start of these proceedings, Toowoomba Regional Council remains committed to working with the Wagners to resolve these matters,” the council's Planning and Development Committee chair Chris Tait said after the hearing.
The council website said charges existed so new developments helped share costs of additional demand on things including trunk infrastructure.
The matter will be reviewed on May 17. -NewsRegional