Palmer Co coughs up $700,000 cash in council legal stoush
CLIVE Palmer's shuttered Queensland Nickel refinery has coughed up more than $700,000 in cash owed to ratepayers.
Townsville City Council has been chasing QNI Metals and QNI Resources Pty Ltd since 2016, the same year the company went into administration and then liquidation, causing nearly 800 workers to lose their jobs, for $2.5 million in allegedly unpaid rates and water charges on Yabulu refinery land and another property in Black River.
Legal back and forth, including QNI claiming valuation of the land upon which council had based its rates charges were wrong, stalled action.
Townsville City Council began investigating how to reactivate its debt proceedings before last year's February monsoon struck but because it had placed a hold on debt recovery action against all ratepayers until June 30, 2019, it effectively barred itself from going after QNI earlier.
The council, still unable to get QNI to agree to pay, launched legal proceedings against the companies in the Supreme Court of Brisbane in December last year in a bid to claw back the $2.5 million.
QNI has since paid $38,876 to Townsville City Council for rates, with interest, on the land at Black River and a further $668,688.83 for water charges, with interest, for the land at Yabulu, as of February 6, according to Supreme Court documents.
But the legal battle continues, with Townsville City Council still seeking $1.8 million in owed moneys.
According to court documents lawyers for QNI have asked for a temporary stay in proceedings so that a tribunal to work out the issue, a process that can be triggered under the Queensland Nickel Act, can "run its course".
But lawyers for Townsville City Council argue there is no logic to the argument.
"The basis of that application appears to be that the Palmer companies contend that a stay is warranted because they sought to have this dispute and their dispute with the Valuer-General referred to a tribunal under the QNA Act.
"However, no Tribunal has been constituted, and the Minister has no duty to convene a Tribunal to determine this dispute."
Justice Peter Flanagan, on February 10, ordered Townsville City Council file an amended statement of claim by March 2, while Queensland Nickel must come back with a defence by March 30.
A spokesman for Townsville City Council said it was "continuing to pursue recovery of these moneys through the courts", as it would "with any other ratepayer that hasn't paid their bills".
QNI was contacted for comment.