A student sit-in, hundreds of lost trees, a contentious fence and now a costly court battle is the latest development in a bitter land dispute between the Australian National University and a residential college.
Burgmann College is suing the ANU in the ACT Supreme Court over developments on its leased land and is seeking an injunction that would stop the ANU from continuing the work.
The independently run Burgmann College, which opened at the ANU in 1971 and accommodates up to 350 students, holds a 99-year sublease over the land on which it sits on Daley Road. It is due to expire in 2078.
According to court documents, Burgmann says it is entitled to occupy and quietly enjoy the land covered by the sublease and has sought a declaration from the court to enforce this.
It is also seeking an injunction that would prevent the university from trespassing on, and therefore developing, the subleased land.
The ANU has launched a counterclaim against Burgmann, seeking a declaration the college has breached its sublease and approval for the university to access the land.
The ANU has begun constructing a new accommodation facility which extends beyond Burgmann into the land that was once occupied by a biology field station.
The matter came to a head in September when students and staff at Burgmann used cars, chairs and their own bodies to halt machinery from entering the land after workers removed a fence put up by the college.
Hundreds of trees have been felled in preparation for the development.
The development has been approved by the National Capital Authority, however court documents suggest Burgmann College principal Sally Renouf was not made aware of the development until it had been approved and was due to commence.
The university's chief operating officer Chris Grange is quoted in documents filed in court saying "we stuffed up here" as he believed the land boundaries had been thoroughly checked prior to the project commencing.
The documents show the university insists the project be completed by 2021.
It is understood the land is needed for a road to connect the development with Clunies Ross Street where a signalled intersection will be built.
The documents show Ms Renouf requested the ANU explore possibilities to move the project slightly so it did not impinge on the land, considering it was still in its early stages.
The ANU agreed to look into this option but ultimately advised it was not possible.
Burgmann College intended to pursue its own development options in future and believes the road will hinder its ability to do so.
The college was granted the land in question as part of the updated sublease in 2004 and it is included as part of the college's lease on the document held by ACT Land Titles.
However, the ANU believes the land being included as part of Burgmann's leased area was done in error when the previous lease was agreed. The ANU further claimed Burgmann had not used or maintained the land since 2004.
The ANU claims Burgmann breached its lease by erecting the fence along the boundary line. The documents show ANU staff and contractors repeatedly threatened to remove the fence.
They also show the ANU offered to negotiate with Burgmann to return the land to ANU and offer compensation.
The matter will return to court next month.