Port Stephens Council reaches agreement with owners of Lagoons Estate

LONG LEGAL BATTLE: David Vitnell at Lagoons Estate in 2017 beside a pond where drainage water gathers at the site. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
LONG LEGAL BATTLE: David Vitnell at Lagoons Estate in 2017 beside a pond where drainage water gathers at the site. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

An agreement has been reached between Port Stephens Council and the owners of Nelson Bay's Lagoons Estate, costing ratepayers an estimated $9.15 million in total.

Port Stephens Council released a statement on Thursday afternoon outlining how much money has been spent on settling the matter, quashing previous claims that ratepayers had footed a bill of up to $15 million.

"Since 2002, the cost to ratepayers has been $7.15 million on public drainage works, settlements and legal costs, with an estimated $2 million to be spent on future public drainage works," a Port Stephens Council spokesperson said.

"After almost 20 years of ongoing legal proceedings, the council wishes to clarify the record on this matter in the interests of transparency.

"All costs to date have been disclosed in council's financial statements and annual reports."

Mayor Ryan Palmer said that the Port Stephens community can be relieved there's finally been an outcome.

"This council has worked hard to resolve a complicated drainage issue and it's disappointing that it has been going on for many years," he said.

"The court has now determined how the drainage system should be expanded to prevent any flow of water into the Lagoons Estate. Council has budgeted for these works and is now in the process of engineering the solution.

"While I understand there has been community angst about this ongoing case, I can assure ratepayers that the cost has been carefully managed to minimise the impact on the council's service delivery to the community."

Port Stephens Council agreed to pay developer David Vitnell an undisclosed amount to settle the Lagoons Estate legal battle which centred around drainage.

The council was given a December 2020 deadline to complete drainage works it failed to do in 2006, despite a court order.

The failure to do the drainage works formed the basis of Mr Vitnell's Supreme Court case against the council from 2016.

The works are required to stop stormwater from roads and a residential estate, developed by the council in the 1970s, from being directed to Mr Vitnell's Lagoons Estate housing development.

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