Canberra greyhound club loses latest court challenge
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Canberra greyhound club loses latest court challenge

The Canberra Greyhound Racing Club will turn its attention to overturning the ACT ban in the Federal Court next year after it lost an appeal on Thursday.

The full bench of the ACT Court of Appeal decided not to force the ACT Planning and Land Authority to grant the club a new lease.

The Canberra Greyhound Racing Club lost an appeal seeking to force the ACT Planning and Land Authority to grant it a new lease over its Symonston premises.

The Canberra Greyhound Racing Club lost an appeal seeking to force the ACT Planning and Land Authority to grant it a new lease over its Symonston premises.Credit:Sitthixay Ditthavong

The racing club was also ordered to pay costs.

The club was appealing a decision by Chief Justice Helen Murrell in February where she described the club's efforts to seek a decision on its lease extension as futile.

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The club originally took the planning authority to court after it declined to make a decision about the club's lease, which is due to expire in 2027.

The lease allowed the racing club to conduct greyhound racing at its Symonston racetrack and was issued for 50-year periods.

The planning authority decided to wait to make a decision on the club's lease until after the ban on greyhound racing was legislated in November last year.

The appeal court supported the chief justice's finding that the planning authority had a duty to come to a decision on the lease application and it had constructively refused to fulfil that duty.

However in handing down the judgment the court determined there would be no utility in forcing the hand of the planning authority to grant a new lease, again agreeing with the original finding of the chief justice.

The court also found that because the planning authority has the power to decide the term and conditions of any lease it would almost certainly have been less favourable to the club than the current lease.

If the ban was overturned in the Federal Court the planning authority would have no basis to decline offering the club a new lease, the court said.

The club would then be in a better position to take advantage of that under its existing lease other than if a new lease had been granted.

Club chairman Alan Tutt said while the club was disappointed with the result it was not unexpected.

"It's not win-win and it's not lose-lose," Mr Tutt said.

"It strengthens one aspect of our Federal Court case."

The club will be fighting the ban on greyhound racing in the Federal Court next year and Mr Tutt said their argument would focus on aspects of free trade and compensation.

"The government did not follow the law as they should have," Mr Tutt said.

"That's a worry for anyone who has a lease they want extended."

Mr Tutt also advised that the club's lease was contingent on racing taking place at the site and that now due to the ban the club can no longer fulfil its contractual obligation.

He said the lease included a clause that after 12 months of the lessee not fulfilling its purpose, in this case greyhound racing, the government can take the land back.

He said the matter was unusual as the party with which the lessee has the contractual obligation, in the instance the ACT government, was the party prohibiting them from meeting their obligation.

Elliot Williams is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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