When does the private benefit from public land become too much? In the case of Willoughby Council and the Talus Reserve. The NSW Supreme Court made final orders in the long-running Talus dispute this week.

Willoughby Council has been ordered to take all practical steps to cause the reserve to be and remain available for public recreation and it must ensure that access to the tennis courts on the reserve is open to all members of the public (not dependent on membership of any club).

Anyone for tennis? Australia’s greatest local government stoush rolls on

The orders were made with Council’s consent on February 15.  They follow an earlier judgment in the same dispute by Justice Brereton in December 2016 when, accepting the plaintiffs’ submissions that the lease of Talus was void, the Judge held: “On the authorities to which I have referred, it is manifestly clear that the demise of the whole of the Talus Reserve to a private club (whether NSTC or NSTA) is plainly not a use of the reserve for public recreation.” 

Such issues are epitomised in the battle for Talus Reserve, 15,000 square metres of land on Talus Street on Sydney’s inner North Shore.

Since 1992, the founder of the Humpty Dumpty children’s charity, Paul Francis, has operated his private tennis business, Love ‘N Deuce, out of Talus Reserve on peppercorn rents. The dispute led to division on the Council and accusations of cronyism.