Five years of litigation over the management of Talus St Reserve in Naremburn has finally settled, ending a case that highlights widespread systemic issues with the use and management of Crown Land in NSW.
The case was brought by members of the community, represented since 2017 by PIAC, who say they were refused access to the tennis courts being privately operated in the public Reserve and were concerned about the management of the site.
The Reserve is Crown land, managed through a Reserve Trust by Willoughby City Council, but for years has been leased to a tennis association and operated by a private company for profit. The claim alleged breaches of the Crown Lands Act 1989 (NSW) because the land was not open to the public as of right and was being run for private profit rather than for the public benefit.
The Supreme Court has now made orders by consent requiring Willoughby City Council and the Reserve Trust to take all practical steps to ensure that the Reserve remains available for public recreation. This includes ensuring that access to the Reserve is open to all members of the public (and is not dependent on membership of any club) and that any profit derived by the Reserve Trust from leasing the Reserve is applied for public recreation. Parking on the Reserve will also be returned to the public.
The orders are consistent with an earlier Supreme Court judicial advice decision in which the Court advised Willoughby City Council and the Reserve Trust that the lease to the tennis association was unlawful.
Harriet Owens, one of the plaintiffs, said: ‘These final orders, made with Council’s consent, remind us all that no one is above the rule of law. We were forced to bring this case because Council had refused since 2011 to apply the law laid down by the High Court in the Rutledge case: land held on trust for public recreation must remain open to the public generally as of right and not be a source of private profit’.
PIAC CEO, Jonathon Hunyor, said that ‘PIAC took up this case because of significant community concerns about ensuring accountability for the use of the public estate.’
‘Crown Land is a valuable public asset. We need to make sure it is being used for the public benefit, not private interests, and that it remains open for everyone in our community to use.’
Media contact: PIAC Media and Communications Manager, Gemma Pearce – 0478 739 280