Family spends $250K fighting council decision

John and Kathryn Mahoney are disputing the government change made to their land in Deebing Heights. It has been changed from development purpose land to rural (with a lower value) despite development occurring on the property opposite (as seen behind).
John and Kathryn Mahoney are disputing the government change made to their land in Deebing Heights. It has been changed from development purpose land to rural (with a lower value) despite development occurring on the property opposite (as seen behind). Rob Williams

IT was supposed to be their retirement nest egg.

Forty acres of rolling Yamanto pastures ripe for residential development.

But one family's dream of financial freedom now has a massive road running through it.

In a classic David and Goliath battle - John Mahoney, his wife Kathryn and brother Austin are waging a war against the State Government over a zoning change that dramatically reduced their property's value.

The outcome of a Queensland Court of Appeal decision will determine if they lose $1,707,500 and more than $604,000 interest awarded to them in the Land Court in March, 2013.

The Austins have spent more than $250,000 and 10 years fighting the Ipswich City Council decision that resulted in the Department of Main Roads and Transport taking half of their property for the South West Transport Corridor.

The change from urban to rural reduced the property's value to $275,000.

The bitter row played out in a Brisbane court this week as the Mahoneys appealed a decision which saw the Land Court's initial ruling set aside.

Half of the property - 21.2 acres (8.593ha)- along Ipswich-Boonah Road was zoned future urban in the then Moreton Shire planning scheme, when the family bought it in 1982.

The property is near the intersection of the Cunningham Highway.

But the Ipswich City Council rezoning to rural meant the value dropped to $275,000 when the Department of Main Roads took it back in March, 2006.

John, 74, Mrs Mahoney, 63, and Austin, 72, claimed the change showed the council knew the block would be used for the SWTC long before they bought it.

Mr and Mrs Mahoney - who have three adult children and whose youngest son was killed in 1995 - hope the decision will be made soon as Austin is dying from liver cancer.

"We desperately wanted to get Austin into more comfortable circumstances before he died - now I think that will be impossible," Mrs Mahoney said on Friday.

"Unfortunately he lost a lot of money in the global financial crisis so he's got very few resources."

Mrs Mahoney said the family did their homework before buying the property, which now has the Centenary Highway Extension running through it.

"We were just bewildered - it seemed so strange," the lawyer said of the zone change.

"It would be lovely for residential development because of the views and the breezes and everything but it was never suitable for rural land."

"There was absolutely no mention of anything going on with the land.

"There's cars whizzing across our land everyday and we've never received any money from Main Roads except a small advance.

"We never understood why or when they took it (the zoning) away."

Mrs Mahoney said she held little hope of winning the case.

"I'm angry - I've now reached the stage where I feel that more than anything," she said.

"You feel people should never be treated like this - land is really precious to people and if they're going to muck around with it and do backroom deals and things, people should know what it going on."

The Mahoney's barrister, Michael Labone, told the court the decision was a miscarriage of justice.

"The SWC concept moved about and changed to come back over my client's land," Mr Labone said.

Barrister Danny Gore, for the department, refuted the claim, saying the land was close to the Amberley Air Base and therefore unsuitable for urban development.

"The maps demonstrate the land was in a rural zone," Mr Gore said.

A 2006 letter from Ipswich planning manager John Adams and written to Ms Mahoney reflected Mr Gore's stance.

"It would appear that the rural designation was based around the fact that the land was ... subject to overhead aircraft noise from the operations of the Amberley Air Base which rendered it unsuitable for urban residential development; and difficult to service with urban infrastructure owing to its topography and location to the south of the Cunningham Highway," the letter, which was presented at the first trial, said.

During the original trial, Ms Mahoney submitted evidence the Ipswich planning scheme down-zoned the land for possible extension of the SWTC with the option to link the Warrego and Cunningham Highways.

Mr and Mrs Mahoney split their time between Brisbane and Warwick where they own a cattle farm.


Topics:  court property state government zoning

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