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Decade-long Geraldton rates fight draws to a close

The City of Greater Geraldton has defended its decision to seize and sell a Geraldton man’s house and land after he refused to pay council rates for more than a decade.

Wayne Kenneth Glew ran up debts of more than $300,000, including outstanding rates and rubbish charges, penalty interest and council legal fees after waging a losing court battle with the City.

The City seized Mr Glew’s 9ha property at 1004 Chapman Road, Glenfield, last year and the property is currently under offer.

Mayor Shane Van Styn last week said the City had used its seizure powers under the Local Government Act as a last resort, after exhausting legal processes and attempts to find negotiated solutions.

“The recovery action has taken a great deal of time and cost, and this was the result of the ratepayer refusing to admit at all times that he and the other titleholder on the property were obliged to pay the outstanding rates and charges, despite having no legal grounds for doing so,” he said.

In 2014, the Supreme Court declared Mr Glew a vexatious litigant, limiting his ability to take legal action.

The Court found Mr Glew had repeatedly tried to argue Australian governments and courts had no jurisdiction under the Constitution — an argument the Court described as nonsensical and incoherent, “rejected countless times in Australia and elsewhere”.

“It has been explained to him on any number of occasions the argument has no hope of success. But still the defendant persists,” Master Craig William Sanderson said at the time.

“It is no light matter to deny a citizen the right to proceed in the courts of a State. But with every right comes a duty. The duty here is on the litigant to make proper and appropriate use of the courts’ resources. That duty is breached when the same hopeless argument is run again and again.”

In 2012, the District Court dismissed an appeal from Mr Glew over rates non-payment when he put the same argument — the Court describing it as an abuse of process.

Mr Glew last week maintained his position that courts and local governments had no authority, citing various sources including the Magna Carta.

“A local government is a registered company under the total control of the Western Australian Local Government Association. So they’re not a local government — they’re a registered company,” he said.

“They can’t touch (my property). They fenced it, I threw the gates away; they put concrete blocks, I threw them away. I’ve already, before (the City) did, seized it under clause 61 of Magna Carta.

“They must take that to a lawful court established under the constitution. This magistrate’s court is not.”

Mr Van Styn said the City was committed to exercise the powers it possessed under the law, ensuring that no ratepayer unfairly avoided their legal obligation to pay rates and charges, but would assist ratepayers encountering financial hardship.

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