22 May 2024

Man with 600 cars on rural property near Bungendore found guilty of contempt

| Albert McKnight
Justice system.

Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council had accused Wayne Banks from Mulloon of contempt. Photo: Sang Hyun Cho, Pixabay.

A man with shipping containers, forklifts, tractors, trailers and about 600 cars on his rural property has been found guilty of contempt after failing to remove the items within a court-ordered timeframe.

In December 2017, Wayne Banks was ordered to remove all motor vehicles, goods and some structures like shipping containers from the land he owned at Mulloon Road in Mulloon, a locality east of Bungendore, by July 2018.

The Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council accused him of contempt in May 2021, to which Banks pleaded not guilty.

In the NSW Land and Environment Court’s decision on the matter from earlier this month, Justice Nicola Pain said council officers had conducted numerous inspections of the property for several years.

Over two inspections in 2019 and 2020, a council officer saw about 500 to 600 cars, as well as motorbikes, horse floats, boats, caravans, forklifts, tractors and trailers.

The officer also said about seven shipping containers were on the property and other goods were stored outside them, including building materials, car tyres, and mounds of scrap steel and industrial equipment.

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In May 2020, the council wrote to Banks to say its recent inspection had found little progress in complying with the orders to remove the items, and it was estimated that more than 600 cars were stored at the property.

Banks told the council that he had been removing the vehicles, but this had been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, ill health and lack of money, so he asked for more time – until the end of 2021 – to finish the work.

But in October 2023, a council officer inspected the property and found that while progress had been made, an estimated 500 to 600 cars and other vehicles and scrap metal still remained.

When she returned again early in 2024, Banks told her he had not made significant progress since her last inspection due to wet weather, the condition of the road and damage to vehicles.

When the matter went to court in April 2024, Banks argued that his efforts to comply with the orders were substantial despite the difficulties caused by the excessive wet weather that affected the condition of the paddocks and made his property inaccessible to vehicles.

He said he had decided to sell the property via a property swap, and the buyer was aware of the contempt proceedings and would clear the remainder of the vehicles and any other goods on finalisation of the sale.

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Also, Banks claimed the recent poor state of public roads after heavy rainfall, which he thought was the council’s responsibility to maintain, had stopped heavy vehicles from being able to remove cars from his property and thus prevented him from complying with the orders.

But the council said it had been five years and 10 months since he had been told to comply with the orders, during which there would have been periods without wet weather.

Justice Pain said the council had established “overwhelmingly” that the orders made in December 2017 had not been complied with.

Banks’ lawyer, Kim Bolas of Kim Bolas Legal Group, argued that her client’s efforts to comply had been “frustrated”, so he could not be guilty of contempt.

However, Justice Pain did not accept the argument that his efforts to comply “have been frustrated by events beyond his control over the very extensive period that has been allowed by the council to comply”.

She said Council had established that Banks was guilty of contempt. He will be sentenced at a later date.

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