Teen Challenge rehabilitation unit appeal heads to Supreme Court

DECISION APPEALED: Teen Challenge Tasmania's Tanya Cavanagh and Peter Ferrall at the former Meander Primary School where they plan to open Home of Hope rehabilitation centre. Picture: Carly Dolan
DECISION APPEALED: Teen Challenge Tasmania's Tanya Cavanagh and Peter Ferrall at the former Meander Primary School where they plan to open Home of Hope rehabilitation centre. Picture: Carly Dolan

A decision against a controversial drug rehabilitation unit proposed for Northern Tasmania will face the Supreme Court later this month.

Christian group Teen Challenge Tasmania successfully sought approval from Meander Valley Council to build a drug rehabilitation unit at a former primary school site.

However, the Resource Management and Planning Appeals Tribunal ruled against the proposal, finding it had been incorrectly categorised as hospital services, after an appeal was lodged against the development.

Now the council taken an appeal against the tribunal decision to the Supreme Court, which will be aired on July 24.

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Mayor Craig Perkins said the appeal process had not been a straight-forward decision to make.

"At first the council did not want to appeal, but decided to proceed because an appeal to the Supreme Court  would provide clarity about the use categorisation and minimise ongoing costs associated with future appeals,” Cr Perkins said.

In making its decision the tribunal did not state what category Council should class the proposed development.

The Supreme Court has been asked to determine the right category as part of the appeal, he said.

“If the tribunal decision is overturned, the matter will be sent back to the tribunal to consider the planning merit arguments in a reconvened hearing.”

"But if the tribunal is right, the supreme court will identify what the right classification is and it will be re-advertised."

The whole process had knocked back the project by six to eight months, he said.

The Meander Area Residents and Ratepayers Association have consistently voiced their opposition to the proposal, raising concerns the site could be of better use to the community and the council’s decision process lacked transparency.

Association spokeswoman Bodhi McSweeney said the association was surprised the council decided to take their appeal to the Supreme Court.

“It’s all been a farce, but justice will prevail,” Ms McSweeney said.

She was concerned more money was being “thrown” at a proposal which might not go ahead and said MARRA had no plans to back down.

“We are looking at our legal options at the moment.”

Teen Challenge Tasmania executive director Tanya Cavanagh said any action delaying the opening of the residential rehabilitation centre should concern everyone because it was “so desperately needed”.

“Each day of delay could cost someone their life,” Ms Cavanagh said.

In response, Ms McSweeney said if Teen Challenge had chosen a different site, it could have been operational by now so the responsibility rested with them.

Ms Cavanagh said, “The three parties involved in the Supreme Court action are Meander Valley Council, RMPAT and Timberworld Pty Ltd”.