HORSHAM Rural City Council has adhered to legal advice and included Jilpanger Road in its road management plan.
Councillors debated for about an hour on Monday night whether the road should be included on council’s road register.
The road is partially on private farmland, provides access to three properties and is at the centre of a long-running dispute between neighbours.
Cr Tony Phelan unsuccessfully moved a motion to adopt the plan exclusive of Jilpanger Road while the status of the road was under dispute.
“A listing of Jilpanger Road on the register will turn what some regard as a private access road – accessible only by agreement – into a public highway,” he said.
“This is my problem. I do not believe an external authority should be able to override private ownership without the existence or creation of an easement.”
Cr Heather Phillips said council received three objections to the draft plan from farmers in the Jilpanger area.
“Their objections were about the financial cost to the ratepayer and the process for a public road to be declared on private land,” she said.
“There really is only one reason you would declare it as a public road and that’s to provide access through private property for the neighbours.
“The process for declaring a private road public without a survey – and no government gazette notice, no public comment – just doesn’t seem to me to be a plan that would stand up.
“Declaring it a public road really seems to be a simple solution to an ongoing dispute. If I thought for one moment it would actually solve the problem, I’d actually be voting with both hands to include it.”
Cr Pam Clarke said council had received a legal opinion that Jilpanger Road was a public road maintained by council.
“It’s really important that we understand we have to comply with legal advice. We don’t have the luxury of becoming the moral umpire in this,” she said.
“There’s been public access to that road since 1960, so it goes back a long way. Council has maintained that road for many, many years.”
Cr Clarke said council had an obligation to allow residents to access their property.
“I’m just wondering what we’re going to do when one landowner locks the gates and disallows access for other people to get to their property,” she said.
“This could be the result if we don’t declare this a public road.
“It is a legal opinion that we pass the road management plan with Jilpanger Road in it, and I think we need to comply with that legal advice.”
Cr Clarke successfully moved the plan be adopted inclusive of Jilpanger Road.
Mayor David Grimble said council could not afford to leave it off the register.
“If we don’t adopt this, inclusive of Jilpanger Road, we’re going to leave ourselves restricting access to stakeholders along that road,” he said.
“We’re also going to expose ourselves to liability.
“This is a long-standing issue. I know it’s very complicated.
“It’s very hard to fully understand, but I think you’ve got to put your emotions aside and truly understand the professional advice that has been provided and that council has obligations under the Road Management Act.”