CLEANED OUT: Paul and Monica Gerondal say they have no money.
- ACT Govt spends $100,000 on 38-year renovation saga
- Couple allegedly owe Eurobodalla Shire $450,000
- No end in sight for Gerondals
A south coast council is confident it will be able to recover more than $115,000 in clean-up costs from a Canberra couple at the centre of a separate 38-year-old development dispute in the ACT.
After almost a decade of unsuccessfully attempting to have Paul and Monica Gerondal clean-up their block at 19 Munjeroo Lane, Bingie, Eurobodalla Shire Council paid a contractor to conduct the Land and Environment Court sanctioned clean-up last year.
The Gerondals' Bingie property
A photo from the Gerondals' Bingie property.
The rubbish included old car bodies, pieces of scrap metal, material from demolished buildings, a phalanx of porcelain toilet bowls and a derelict caravan.
Self-titled "advocates" for the Gerondals now claim the couple doesn't have to pay the money after a NSW Supreme Court determination earlier this month.
"Council management's first attempt to bankrupt a disability pensioner (Mrs Gerondal)" has failed, Damien Rogers told Fairfax Media.
Mr Rogers, the Gerondals and other "advocates" have consistently maintained the tonnes of scrap, which was scattered across a large section of the lakeside block, was not rubbish or waste.
Closer to home, the Gerondals have repeatedly been the subject of legal action by the ACT government over the unfinished redevelopment of their south Canberra home that dates back to 1975.
They have already paid out an estimated $70,000 in costs in relation to that case. Mrs Gerondal has previously told Fairfax that money had to be borrowed to forestall moves by the territory government to force them out of their home.
A Eurobodalla Shire Council spokeswoman said about 100 tonnes of material had been removed from the couple's Bingie property by Eurobodalla Coast Skips on council's behalf and taken to 'lawful facilities' last year.
"Mrs Gerondal also removed substantial volumes of material from the site by herself and primarily with the aid of an independent contractor engaged by herself," the spokeswoman said.
Mr and Mrs Gerondal disputed Eurobodalla Coast Skips' $115,295.80 fee and sought to have this and the associated legal costs reviewed by the NSW Supreme Court.
On July 9 Michael Dyson, the costs assessor, ruled he was unable to assess the costs charged by Eurobodalla Coast Skips.
"Apart from the fact that there appears to be a factual dispute about the quantification of that item, it is not a matter which falls within matters which a cost assessor can determine," he said.
Mr Rogers takes that to mean Mr and Mrs Gerondal are not liable for the bill.
"The cost assessor had little choice but to reject council's contract and its many claims on the pensioner," he said.
He may be in error given Mr Dyson was apparently ruling on a technicality.
Mr Dyson said council needed to have the original order from the Land and Environment Court sanctioning the clean-up amended if it was to recover the specific amount.
"One of the orders sought (by council from the Land and Environment Court) was that if the applicant (council) carries out the works (the clean-up) the respondent (the Gerondals) be liable for the reasonable costs and expenses incurred in carrying out these works," Mr Dyson found.
"The order, in fact, made was that '....the respondent pay the applicant's reasonable costs thereof as agreed or assessed'.
"It may be necessary (for council) to seek to have the order amended to specifically provide for payment of a specific amount."
He ruled the Gerondals did have to pay council's legal costs of $5,914.24 in regard to the removal of the material. This was $1,642 less than the $7,556 being sought by Eurobodalla Shire.
"The cost assessor has declined to make a determination about the costs of the clean-up work," the council spokeswoman said.
"This does not mean the council is not entitled to claim the costs of the clean-up in accordance with the Court orders.
"Council maintains that the costs of the clean-up work are reasonable and will be recovering them."