District Council of Yankalilla to sell land at Wirrina Cove to recover owners' debts

A piece of land at Wirrina Cove will be sold to recover monies the current owners owe the District Council of Yankalilla for rates, wastewater management and water usage.

After much discussion around the sensitive decision, councillors approved the sale of the property at the October meeting.

According to the report put to council by finance and procurement manager Gary Lewis, the owner last made a payment for rates and the Community Wastewater Management System (CWMS) in April 2015, and now owes nearly $15,000 for rates and more than $51,000 for CWMS. In addition, the council is owed more than $77,000 for water usage.

"A payment of $600 was made on May 14, 2018, however this would not cover the total interest that was outstanding at the time, so it made no difference to the rates and CWMS owing," Mr Lewis said in the report.

The report said over the years, the council engaged in negotiations with the owners "but this has not resulted in any agreement for the payment of overdue rates", and as the level of debt increased the negotiations intensified.

As these negotiations, along with reminder notices and legal assistance, had not been effective, he said the council now had the option to take action under Section 184 of the Local Government Act 1999 - Sale of land for non-payment of rates.

"Section 184 of the Local Government Act 1999 empowers ouncil to sell land where the rates for a property have been outstanding for a period of not less than three years," Mr Lewis said in the report.

"Naturally, instigating proceedings to sell land to recover outstanding rates is the method of last resort.

"Anecdotal evidence across the local government industry indicates that where such proceedings are instigated it is often a trigger for payment being received as the respective ratepayer invariably wishes to avoid the land sale process."

Councillor Davina Quirke was worried the owners could be struggling and the land sale would add to it.

"I have concerns if there's other issues we're not aware of," she said.

Elected members expressed their reluctance to sell the property but felt they had their hands tied.

"We don't do it comfortably, but they've left council with no option," councillor Simon Rothwell said.

"It's unfortunate we have to take this action ... but we need to proceed," councillor David Olsson said.