TOOWOOMBA REGIONAL COUNCIL, HAMPTON IRRIGATORS TO RESTART NEGOTIATIONS AFTER SUPREME COURT ORDER
The Toowoomba Regional Council and a group of farmers in the north of the region will head back to the negotiating table soon following a new court order in the parties’ ongoing legal saga.
November 23, 2020 - 1:17PM
The Toowoomba Regional Council will restart negotiations with Hampton Irrigators soon following a court order.
The Toowoomba Regional Council and Hampton Irrigators will restart negotiations in the coming weeks as part of an ongoing dispute over a longstanding water agreement.
The Supreme Court last week ruled that legal proceedings be stayed until further orders were made, with Justice Glenn Martin encouraging the parties to reopen a dialogue before returning to court again.
Hampton Irrigators had filed a claim to the court on November 12 against the council in the latest litigation action since the saga began last year. It related to a water swap agreement between the TRC and the farmers that dated back to 2008, where water would be pumped from a bore in Kleinton into Cooby Dam, and the equivalent amount of Toowoomba bulk water would be made available for irrigating avocado trees.
The council turned off the bore pump late last year, citing water quality issues, and wrote to the irrigators to terminate the agreement. The Supreme Court ruled the agreement was still valid and that the bore water was suitable for drinking.
The Hampton Irrigators returned to court this month to argue the council had not guaranteed it would honour a clause extending the contract to 2032.
As part of submissions, the TRC in turn said the farmers had not properly carried out a separate clause that permitted the parties to enter into “dispute resolution” prior to starting legal proceedings.
Justice Martin said while the dispute resolution clause was not legally binding, there was no reason the dispute could not be resolved during negotiations.
“The question which is at the heart of the dispute is a legal one involving construction of documents and consideration of correspondence,” his order said.
“There is no legal reason which would prevent the parties, if they wished, from reaching an agreement about the application of clause 22 (the contract length) and recording that in a deed.
“I consider that HI has not met the heavy onus necessary to refuse the stay."
“The respondent (TRC) had bargained for disputes to be resolved in the format outlined in clause 15 (dispute resolution) and there is no good reason why it should not be held to that agreement.
“I order that the proceedings be stayed until further order.”
Creevey Russell Lawyers’ Dan Creevey, who is acting for the irrigators, said negotiations would restart soon.