Cr John Arkan
Cr John Arkan

Cr’s blueberry bill grows to more than $130k

Coffs Harbour City Councillor John Arkan has been ordered to pay $89,061.82 in court costs to Mountain Blue Orchards after a court ruled he sold blueberry plants he was not authorised to sell.

This is on top of the $42,500 in damages he was ordered to pay for infringing the rights of the company under the Plant Breeder's Rights Act 1994.

The Act is designed to protect the rights of breeders of certain new varieties of plants.

In this case it was their Ridley 1111 plant variety known for its higher quality fruit (medium and firm with a dark blue colour and small picking scar) and an earlier availability than other varieties.

The case has been heard before the Federal Circuit Court of Australia in Brisbane with the matter of costs finalised this week.

Cr Arkan was contacted but did not wish to comment.

In addition to paying damages Cr Arkan has been directed to provide an affidavit to Mountain Blue Orchards outlining the number and location of plants, propagating material and fruit of the specific variety in his possession or control.

Orders have also been made to provide details of all the other parties these plants, propagating material and fruit was sold on to.

Cr John Arkan during a Coffs Harbour City Council meeting in August last year.
Cr John Arkan during a Coffs Harbour City Council meeting in August last year.

He was also ordered to deliver up for destruction to a representative from the company at his Woolgoolga, Palmer Road property, all plants, other propagating material and fruit currently in his possession.

Mountain Blue Orchards has been granted access to the Palmer Road property to check the destruction orders had been complied with.

It's not the first time the Cr has featured in the courts. In 2018 he was issued an infringement notice for using an unregistered trailer and was allowed to leave the location choosing to drive Old Coast Rd instead of the Pacific Highway.

The traffic offence, came after the well-known local market vendor was caught making an illegal U-turn in an unregistered and uninsured bus, which displayed unauthorised plates last year.

He pleaded guilty to his charges in court and took a leave of absence from his role as a Councillor. Coffs Harbour City Council later ruled he had not breached its code of conduct and no further action was taken.


A 'private legal matter'

Earlier this month the Office of Local Government NSW was asked to responded to the blueberry case.

"This is a private legal matter between the councillor and other parties to the court proceedings and does not fall within the ambit of the Model Code of Conduct for Local Councils in NSW," an office spokesperson said.

"Ultimately, it is a matter for the local community to determine if they want an individual councillor as their elected representative when voting at the next council election."

Mayor Denise Knight.
Mayor Denise Knight.

Mayor Denise Knight was also contacted in relation to the matter and she issued the following statement.

"I have received a few emails from the community with inquires re. Cr Arkan. However, Coffs City Council, like every Council in NSW, has a Code of Conduct that applies to all Council Officials.

"Should a complaint be lodged under that Code against a Council official, including a Councillor, the complaint is assessed/investigated in accordance with the Code, affording all parties natural justice and procedural fairness."

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