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Councillor Annie Goble sues Mitchell Shire Council

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By Colin MacGillivray

MITCHELL Shire councillor Annie Goble will remain absent from meetings as she sues council through its insurance company over what she said was $90,000 of damage caused to a horse transport vehicle by a tree in Kilmore East last year.

Cr Goble has been absent from council meetings since April. She was listed as an apology for the April, May and June meetings, before council issued a statement that she had taken a leave of absence in July.

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She continue to receive her council allowance and agenda papers during her absence, which will be until at least September 1.

Cr Goble, who is also a horse trainer, said she had engaged a barrister to issue proceedings against MAV Insurance, council’s insurer, over damage to her horse transport truck.

She said a tree branch overhanging O’Sheas Road in Kilmore East near her house became an issue in 2019 when she bought the transport vehicle.

“The horse box was 3.3 metres high, and there was a limb on one of the trees on O’Sheas Road that came across the trafficable lane at 3.2 metres, so I knew there was a possibility I was going to run into it at some stage,” she said.

“There was a wedge that was cut out of it, which I found out later was one of the Cleanaway [wase disposal] trucks – they had already hit it.”

Cr Goble said contractors removed the limb about two months after she reported it, but left a stump hanging over the edge of the road.

“They didn’t cut it off flush with the tree … They cut straight down through the limb and there was a protrusion that stuck out at 3.2 metres a half metre over the road,” she said.

“Then it was in my peripheral vision and couldn’t necessarily be seen easily.”

Cr Goble said she raised the matter with council again, but alleges that nothing was done to alter the tree for more than a year.

In September last year, she struck the protrusion while contractors carried out grading works on the road.

“I shifted slightly to the left on the road because the right-hand side hadn’t been rolled and was really rough,” she said.

“Fortunately I slowed right down to about five kilometres an hour when the grader came, and the protruding stump hit the corner of my horse box and effectively almost ripped it off.

“The steering wheel got ripped out of my hands, my head hit the window and my elbow hit the door. The truck got lifted up onto the small embankment over the grader blade cut. I thought a tree had fallen on me.

“There was about $90,000 worth of damage. Thankfully neither of the horses was seriously hurt, but the whole box was a complete write off.”

Council officers referred the incident to MAV Insurance, who Cr Goble said had denied any responsibility.

“[Council has] a road management policy that says trafficable lanes have to be clear by 4.9 metres, and this was 3.2 metres,” she said.

“There are photos and I’ve got statements from the garbage truck driver – the evidence is so clear.

“Every time the insurance company comes back they say I knew it was there so I’m liable and council isn’t responsible because it was wholly and solely my driving.

“Then they said council cut the limb to the lowest possible point, which isn’t true.

“We’d given them a lot of opportunities to come back and negotiate, but they just won’t do it. They deny, defer and delay.”

Cr Goble said council installed traffic guide posts this year to change the alignment of the road and keep vehicles away from the protruding base of the limb.

She said she was unsure of when she would return to council duties and had considered resigning over the matter.

“It’s been stressing me and I don’t feel I can sit in the room while it’s going on. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve considered resigning, but I’ve stayed because I know I’ve got the opportunity to improve things,” she said.

“[The council officers are] really good people, but they have policies and procedures that they have to follow. They can’t change MAV’s view.”

Mitchell Shire Council chief executive Brett Luxford said Cr Goble was granted a leave of absence until September 1, but would not comment of the circumstances of her absence.

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