MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire has been ordered to pay $32,000 to Peninsula Aero Club for costs incurred during an ongoing fight over permit conditions.
The club had sought $53,000 during a two-day Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing in July 2020, which saw both sides represented by lawyers and one witness called by the club.
The ruling against the shire comes just months before it is again scheduled to come up against the PAC at VCAT in a hearing called to determine what activities can be carried out at the airfield at the corner of Mornington-Tyabb and Stuart roads, Tyabb (“Shire, aero club head for VCAT showdown” The News 18/8/20).
The decision to proceed with that action could depend on the eight councillors elected last November.
Soon after the election, all 11 of the shire’s councillors were invited to visit the airfield in the hope of finding a “circuit breaker” to resolve ongoing disputes between the PAC and the shire (“Aero club tries to short circuit” The News 16/11/20).
The PAC also involved itself in the election by issuing a how-to-vote card. Successful councillors who were given the PAC’s number one spot were Paul Mercurio (Watson Ward), Lisa Dixon (Cerberus) and Anthony Marsh (Briars) (“Deadline close for most unusual poll” The News 13/10/20).
In February, VCAT overruled the shire and allowed a maintenance shed to be moved within the confines of the Tyabb airfield and, in September, it ordered the shire to remove the so-called Holy Hour restriction on flying on Sunday mornings (“VCAT backs aero club against shire” The News 25/2/20 and “Turbulence ahead despite aero club’s win” The News 8/9/21).
At that stage PAC president Jack Vevers said the VCAT decision had “paved the way to substantiate our contention that our airport operations are lawful uses under our permits”.
Then mayor Cr Sam Hearn said the decision was “welcomed by council in its pursuit of clarity”.
The ruling was “a small but important step in our ongoing quest to fix the current confusion about decades’ old permits”.
“Let’s sort this long running permit mess out once and for all so we can all move on to building a healthy PAC, a growing airfield and a well-informed community confident in its coexistence with the facility,” Cr Hearn said.
In awarding costs against the shire last week, VCAT senior member Jeanette Rickards said PAC would not receive all it wanted “although PAC has sought an amount less than what it says it incurred in costs”.
“It is well known that the recovery of costs is not a punishment but to assist in putting the applicant’s costs back into the position it would have been prior to the making of the applications,” Ms Rickards stated in her finding.
The shire’s “position statement” on the three key planning permits relating to the airfield is available at: mornpen.vic.gov.au/tyabbairfield