VCAT: Bali Belly or Belligerence?

A no-show by an objector’s representative at a VCAT hearing has highlighted the importance of maintaining professional standards in dealings with the Tribunal.

A Compulsory Conference (a type of directions hearing) was scheduled for the first Monday back after the Christmas-New Year break. On the 2nd January (a Saturday) the objectors’ representatives emailed VCAT and the applicant and requested an adjournment, which given the late notice, was denied. The following day (Sunday 3rd of January), they again contacted the Tribunal and the permit applicant requesting leave to attend the hearing via teleconference.

At the Compulsory Conference the next day, Council’s representatives and a solicitor for the permit applicant (recalling this was an objector-initiated appeal) appeared, but the objectors’ legal counsel did not answer any calls to either of the telephone numbers supplied with the application. Weeks later, the objector tendered a medical certificate (dated 10 days after the appeal) claiming to have been struck down with Bali Belly while in Indonesia over the Christmas break, accounting for the failure to attend the hearing via telephone.

The permit applicants sought costs against the objector for expenses associated with the Compulsory Conference, and also sought to have the appeal struck out, meaning that a permit would have issued.

The Tribunal found that the appeal could not be struck out at a Compulsory Conference. However, it awarded costs against the objector on the grounds that their representative’s conduct had caused disadvantage to the other parties.

This is a reminder for applicant’s to carefully read all instructions from VCAT, and not expect late adjournment requests to be looked upon favorably.

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