Former mayor hit by spate of property repossessions
A DISPUTE over cattle ownership has complicated one of several property repossession matters brought against a former Lismore mayor.
AR Mortgages currently has possession of the farm at 22 Hazlemount Lane, Tuckurimba.
The property had been owned by Reavill Farm Pty Ltd, of which former Lismore mayor Jeffrey Champion and his wife, Diane, are the two directors.
Their children, Belinda Nott and Matthew Champion, were granted access to the property to remove some belongings.
But on April 14 Matthew Champion told the NSW Supreme Court he owned 15 head of cattle at the property.
He said these had been seized and partly sold by AR Mortgages.
The company Tucki Hills Pty Ltd – formerly directed by Jeff Champion – has also argued it owned some of the cattle the lender was trying to sell.
When the matter went before the court on June 12, Justice Richard Cavanagh acknowledged there was “a very significant dispute between (AR Mortgages) and Mr Champion/Tucki Hills Pty Ltd as to ownership of any of the cattle in the defendant’s possession”.
Justice Cavanagh is expected to make a ruling on this issue on June 25.
A total of 46 cattle were listed for auction on May 29 and while a purchaser entered into an agreement to buy them, the question of ownership halted the sale.
“It is apparent that the purchaser has become aware of the dispute as to the ownership of the cattle,” Justice Cavanagh said.
This sparked an application from the lender for the court to issue “a declaration that (AR Mortgages) may sell the livestock which it has in its possession, being 46 cows and 41 calves”.
AR Mortgages also sought an order that Matthew Champion and Tucki Hills Pty Ltd “be restrained from engaging in any conduct which would prevent that sale”, as well as an order for costs.
But Justice Cavanagh dismissed the application, pending his June 25 decision.
He stressed there was “no order from the court preventing the sale of the cattle” and found it was not appropriate to make the declaration.
“(The lender) is in a very difficult position as it is dealing with cattle which require care and which are difficult to sell,” he said.
“Its attempts to sell are being thwarted by (Matthew) Champion.
“Of course Mr Champion says that the cattle belong either to him or to Tucki Hills.
“That issue will be determined on 25 June.”
Meanwhile, another company directed by Jeff and Diane Champion, Macabil Pty Ltd, had a property at unit 8 of “Wilson College” at 5 Dixon Place, Lismore, repossessed by Westpac.
Macabil entered into a $390,000 loan agreement with the bank in December, 2011.
A guarantee of $468,000 was provided by the Champions’ company and additional security for the loan was a mortgage over units 7 and 8 of “Wilson College” at 5 Dixon Place in Lismore.
According to an April 23 NSW Supreme Court judgment, the loan had not been repaid as of late 2013 but a variation of the agreement was made in February, 2014, extending the repayment deadline to January 8, 2016, Justice David Davies said in his judgment.
“The loan was not repaid in January 2016 or at all,” Justice Davies said.
The court heard Westpac took possession of unit 7 at 5 Dixon Place and this property was sold in September 2018.
The following month, Macabil Pty Ltd was deregistered as a company.
Westpac served a notice under the National Credit Code upon the Champions in January last year.
When there was no response, the court proceedings were launched on June 6, 2019.
Westpac’s statement of claim, which sought possession of unit 8, was served upon the Champions’ daughter, Belinda Nott.
Ms Nott, who was granted leave to act on behalf of the directors in the court proceedings, disputed the amount owing was $425,889.25, as Westpac claimed.
Justice Davies said while there was a “real dispute between the parties” about “the amount payable”, the Macabil didn’t suggest there was “nothing payable”.
“Although default has not been admitted (I note that it has not been denied) it is clear from the plaintiff’s evidence that the amount was due to be repaid on January 8, 2016 and the full amount has not been repaid,” he said.
“There is evidence that the amount outstanding under the loan agreement is $425,889.25.
“This is disputed by the defendant, but the defendant has not filed any affidavit setting out what the defendant says is owing, nor in what way the plaintiff’s figure is incorrect.”
Justice Davies granted Westpac Banking Corporation possession of the unit and ordered Macabil company to pay Westpac’s costs.
In a separate case last July, Justice Richard Button ordered Reavill Farm Pty Ltd to pay costs to Southern Cross Credit Union after a dispute arose from a failure of the Champions and their children to leave another repossessed property, at 141 Hazlemount Lane, Tuckurimba, vacant.
Champions Quarry in Tucki Tucki, owned by Jeff Champion, was fined $3000 by the Department of Planning and Environment for providing false and misleading information about paying a fee worth nearly $14,000.
Ms Nott was sentenced to a 15 month intensive corrections order last June for intimidating a staff member at the historic Ballina Manor.
Ms Nott had previously owned the hotel but it was in the hands of administrators at the time of the November 2018 incident, during which she threatened to throw the employee down the stairs. The pleaded guilty to that offence.
She was at that time serving a suspended sentence for fraud relating to the fake settlement of long overdue accounts relating to Ballina Manor.
The Tax Practitioners Board banned Ms Nott from working as a tax agent for five years from late 2018, after her appeal against the fraud conviction was unsuccessful.