Horse dispute prompts rates threat
Dave Wakeman (above) with Tommy at Coondle where he believes the shire is setting him up to fail in a five-year battle to keep two horses.
By Michael Sinclair-Jones
COONDLE resident Dave Wakeman says he will not pay rates due on his property this month because of a long-running dispute with the Shire of Toodyay over keeping two horses on his 2.2ha (6.5-acre) property.
“I will deduct $441 for a horse application fee that they required me to pay – only to set me up to fail,” Mr Wakeman said.
“Either that, or they can refund my money.”Read more
The Toodyay Shire Council voted 7-1 in July (Cr Ben Bell opposed) to allow Mr Wakeman to keep two horses subject to 10 conditions and four ‘advice notes’.
These include an amended environment and horse management plan, a manure storage area with a waterproof cover and no run-off or leaching into groundwater, regular collection of unused feed, all remnant vegetation on the property to be fenced off from the horses and a recommendation that they be stabled for 12½ hours every day.
“There are other people with horses living all around me and none of them has to do any of this stuff,” Mr Wakeman said.
“How many others have had to submit horse management plans?”
Mr Wakeman said he bought his Laterite Way property in 2011 after being told by a staff member at the shire front counter that he could keep two horses on it.
“She looked up the address on the shire computer and told me two horses,” he said.
“I was living in Perth at the time and was looking around to buy a place for two horses so that my partner and I could ride together instead of one of us having to stay home.”
Mr Wakeman said he bought the property in Coondle’s Sanctuary Park rural residential subdivision but a neighbour objected when he installed white ‘sighter’ wiring inside his boundary to prevent his horses accidentally injuring themselves on an existing wire fence.
“The neighbour complained to the shire, and Planning Officer Hugo de Vos came out to take a look,” Mr Wakeman said.
“He said everything seemed OK and said all I had to do was put in a management plan for my two horses, which I did.”
SHIRE records show that Mr de Vos recommended that Mr Wakeman’s application for retrospective planning approval at a March 2014 council meeting be granted.
Mr de Vos recommended that the council use its discretion to vary a ‘recommended stocking rate’ to allow two horses to be kept.
“The current process of determining stocking rates is flawed,” he reported to the council.
“The area in question (rural residential) is currently the subject of numerous stocking rate applications.
“There are also instances where horses are already present on properties and thus an issue with compliance.
“It is considered that there is sufficient justification to support this proposal.”
Former shire deputy president Bethan Lloyd, seconded by former Cr Sally Craddock, moved to defer a decision until the council received a horse management plan and an environmental report, and developed a stocking rate policy, but the motion was defeated 3-6.
Former Cr Chris Firns then moved to refuse Mr Wakeman’s application, which was carried 9-0 without discussion or any published reason for rejecting the shire officer’s recommendation.
Mr Wakeman applied to the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) for a review but this was dismissed a year later.
He was fined $12,000 by the shire in November 2017 for keeping two horses on his property.
Mr Wakeman lodged a second SAT appeal in February this year but it was dismissed for being four years too late.
He tried again in March to gain shire approval to keep an additional horse but his application was rejected because it had “insufficient information”.
A further attempt in July succeeded – but with conditions that Mr Wakeman says he cannot accept.
“None of this would have happened if I had been given correct information at the shire front counter in 2011,” he said.
“My partner is now gone – partly due to this – and if I sell and look for another place to keep two horses, I will lose at least $100,000 on the sale.
“I’ve still got one horse, Tommy, and you can see how lonely he is by himself.
“I’ve had a gutful of what this shire has done to me and I’ve told them I want my money back or I won’t be paying my rates.”
Toodyay Shire President Brian Rayner said Mr Wakeman’s 2014 application was “properly refused” and he was prosecuted for ignoring a SAT ruling.
“If Mr Wakeman is unhappy with the conditions of (the latest) approval, he may of course seek to have them reviewed in SAT.
“I do not intend to revisit matters from almost five years ago that have been appropriately and thoroughly dealt with as part of a formal review.”