“I’m furious”: Angry retiree fights backdated charges

The retirement dreams of Melbourne couple Brian and Linda Warwick to live in Eden have turned sour.

The couple, in their 60s, have been slugged with retrospective fees and charges of $6640 by Bega Valley Shire Council for sewerage headworks on the modest Lakeside Drive block developed in the 1970s, which they bought in 2006.

The couple had no idea there were any outstanding fees and charges on their block, which they have compliantly paid rates on for the past eight years.

Legal conveyance done to purchase the block did not uncover any outstanding charges.

It wasn’t until their builder recently put in a Development Application on their behalf to build on the site that the ‘debt’ surfaced.

Have you or someone you know been in a similar situation? Let us know. Email amanda.stroud@fairfaxmedia.com.au

“I got a call from Tony Gordon of Hotondo Homes last week; Tony is our contracted builder who submitted our (building) plans to council,” Brian Warwick said.

“Tony said, ‘I’ve got some good and bad news. The good news is the plans have been passed by council and we can start construction this week. The bad news is council is now demanding a bit over $6000 up front for outstanding headworks charges for sewerage and water put on the block many years ago.’”

Brian says the news made him “furious”.

“This block was developed in the 1970s.

“It’s virtually a retrospective tax that was brought in some time after I purchased the block in 2006.

“I did all the necessary conveyance and legal work when we bought.

“There were no outstanding fees and charges then.

“Now they’ve (council) said, ‘we’ll approve the building, but you can’t start building until this amount of money is paid.

“They’re just holding a gun to my head; it’s grossly unfair.”

It isn’t hard to see why Brain feels bitterly about the unplanned for debt.

“I’m now 65. It’s taken us a while to be in a position to be able to move to Eden.

“What’s complicated this somewhat is I’ve been recently diagnosed with prostate cancer.

“We probably weren’t ready to move, but now we don’t know what the future holds so we decided to do it.”

The couple have already outlaid thousands of dollars to build their dream retirement home and are not in a financial position to pull out and make other plans.

“I can’t now. I’ve already paid in excess of $6000 up-front for the design work and the builder’s contract.

“These are non-refundable costs.

“The only way I can cover that cost is withdraw it from our superannuation, which isn’t large anyway.

“This will ultimately affect our quality of life going forward.”

Mr Warwick says the retrospective charge will deter other retirees considering Eden as their retirement paradise.

“Eden is suffering; people are leaving Eden.

“The cannery closed, the fishing industry is on its last legs and there’s a shadow hanging over the chip mill.

“You would think the Council would do anything to help people move to Eden to boost the economy.

“I’m not going to give up this fight for anybody.

“It’s just grossly unfair… a retrospective charge like this.”

The Magnet sought comment from Bega Valley Shire Council but they were unable to meet our online deadline.

Deputy mayor, Councillor Russell Fitzpatrick, agrees that the fees now charged to the Warwicks are unfair.

“You should be able to buy your land knowing there are no outstanding fees and charges,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.

“These people bought the property in 2006.

“It’s definitely not fair that they now have to pay over $6000 in headworks contributions.

“I have twice attempted to have this situation redressed but have been unsuccessful.”