Missy to stay, for now

Kathy Pope with Missy.
Kathy Pope with Missy.

The fight to keep companion horse, Missy Moo, by her side may have ended in a temporary victory for Batlow woman Kathy Pope, but the double edged sword she has been delivered may prove impossible for her to adhere to.

Battling against the Tumut Shire Council since early September, the final say in Missy’s future at the Batlow church residency was left to the Land and Environment Court after Ms Pope was ordered to remove the horse.

Ms Pope describes the feeling of finding out her appeal had been upheld last Monday, and that Missy could stay, at least until April, as euphoric.

“This is what I wanted from the beginning, council to tell me what I needed to do in order for Missy to stay,” Ms Pope said. “I can’t imagine my world without living close to Missy, I was up sitting with Missy until midnight on Monday after I found out she could stay.

“I would rather have died than not have constant contact with her.”

The findings from the Land and Environment Court are not without there conditions that Ms Pope will need to meet.

The Land and Environment Court requires Ms Pope to ensure the horse’s waste is appropriately dealt with, the horse spends time in larger fenced areas and the drainage between Ms Pope’s property and the adjoining IGA Supermarket wall is addressed.

Ms Pope has until the end of April 2014 to meet the conditions, or Missy will have to find a new home.

“Once I address the works that have been set down, Missy can stay as long as I like,” Ms Pope said. “I have spoken to the owner of the IGA building and she seems amenable to resolving the issue.

“The good thing about this ending up in court is I finally found out what the complaints were and that there were only seven in total.

“I plead with people if you have an issue with a neighbour or anyone try to talk to them, otherwise this is what can happen, you end up in court.”

So far Ms Pope’s battle to keep Missy at her home on the corner of Tumbarumba Road and Selwyn Street has cost her around $10,000. She estimates this could double but she plans on working with the neighbouring land holders to fix the water seepage issues.

She said if spending the money allows Missy to stay close by, then it is money well spent.

“All up I think this will all cost me $20,000,” Ms Pope said. “It is worth it though to keep my baby. I admit it is not the ideal location for a horse, but due to circumstance I am here with her. When I get somewhere else I will go but I can’t be separated from her.

“We are not hurting anyone else and the amount of people who gain pleasure and joy from her is wonderful.”

Looking for a quiet life, Ms Pope was warmed with how welcoming the people of Batlow have been to her. Fighting against council, going to court and upsetting anyone was the last thing on her agenda.

Not interested in pursuing council for her legal costs, Ms Pope just wants to get on with life and is looking forward to working with the other stakeholders in putting the ordeal behind her.

“I am not going to go for costs as I am just glad to get it finished and win,” she said. “From day one I was willing to work with council on sorting everything out but was basically told if I don’t like it then take them to court. They say they are an open door council and will work through issues with people, they are not.

“How they act is against everything they say they will do. Fingers crossed the council come down on themselves for that type of behaviour.”

Missy was originally allowed to reside in the yard of Ms Pope’s property upon her moving there last year, but after receiving several complaints from residents regarding the smell and yard condition, council undertook further inspect the property.

A large rain event followed in July which drew further discontent after water that was tainted with horse manure and urine leaked into the neighbouring premises.

On August 12, council stated in a written directive to Ms Pope, nearly four months ago, that; the animal waste on the site has proven to be ineffective, the premises has had significant accumulations of decomposing hay, manure and urine soaked ground that helped create a pollution incident when a recent high intensity rainfall washed a range of materials into an adjacent premises.

The council order required Missy to be removed by September 23.

This directive resulted in Ms Pope undertaking several initiatives, including installing an electronic fly zapper, regular pooper scooping and the purchase of several loads of sand to build up and de-bog the yard and to address council’s concerns.

Her efforts were not enough to quell the tide though, and she subsequently appealed the order in the Land and Environment Court, which heard the matter on November 27. Ms Pope hopes now that the drainage issue can be resolved without fuss and without the IGA building owner having to follow in her footsteps to court.

“If the council become involved with the drainage issue I am worried they will put a stop order on the IGA so I hope we can sort it ourselves,” Ms Pope said. “If that was to happen it could cost the town a lot.

“I think part of the reason there may have been complaints was because Missy is in an old church yard. Those people that may have concernss shouldn’t worry, I would never do anything to purposely upset people.

“I am thankful for all the support I have received. I am looking forward to getting on with a quiet life.”

Tumut Council Shire is still digesting the contents of the Land and Environment Court’s ruling but will be seeking clarification on several of the management plan conditions including the issue of the storm water drainage.

Director of development and environment for the shire, Paul Mullins, said the ruling is neither a victory for Ms Pope nor the council.

“What the court has ordered is that Ms Pope remove the horse by April 30, 2014 unless she implements the management plan,” Mr Mullins said. “To implement the plan will be extremely difficult and expensive. It also contains very little detail so it raises many questions. We will be seeking clarification on certain aspects of the plan.”

Mr Mullins remains firm in his resolve that council served the order to Ms Pope in the public interest due to complaints about offensive odour, flies and pollution.

“Ms Pope, not the council or the supermarket owner, has been issued with the responsibility of implementing the management plan,” Mr Mullins said.

“I think she has been set an almost impossible task. The big part of the plan that needs clarification is in regard to a catch drain that will collect all storm water, then the water must be treated as you cannot discharge contaminated water into the street.

“Ms Pope has to comply or remove the horse. It is hard to see this as a win for Ms Pope.”

The clause that must be addressed in order for Missy to remain, which council believes will be difficult to achieve states: An appropriate catch drain shall be constructed adjacent to the IGA wall so as to prevent stormwater from being dammed against the wall. This catch drain shall be directed to a collection pit and all run off effectively treated in accordance with best practice environmental control guidelines so that the resultant uncontaminated flows can then be conveyed to an approved road drainage discharge system.

Council is seeking clarification how the water will be treated and who will monitor compliance.

Already the involvement of the courts has cost ratepayers $13,000, an amount that Mr Mullins is concerned will continue to grow.

“For Council to monitor compliance with the management plan will be a real burden for the shire,” Mr Mullins said. “Council served the order in the public interest, Ms Pope exercised her right of appeal which left Council with no other option but to defend the order.”