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 Costly fight to keep CollectorChr(39)s dreamy sculpture 

Costly fight to keep CollectorChr(39)s dreamy sculpture

7/02/2001 6:29:00 AM
After a two-year legal battle with the Gunning Shire Council, the controversial Collector sculpture DreamerChr(39)s Gate still stands, but it has been a costly fight for artist Tony Phantastes.

Justice Terry Sheahan, of the NSW Land and Environment Court, ordered Phantastes on Monday to pay nearly all the councilChr(39)s court costs incurred in the case.

The exact amount the Canberra sculptor had to pay was still under negotiation, the councilChr(39)s general manager, John Bell, said, but a ball-park figure of $20,000 was suggested.

The legal squabble over the 24m-long, 7m-high metal sculpture began in March 1999, when the council issued an order for demolition on the basis that the artwork was structurally unstable.

The councilChr(39)s lawyer, Alan Bradbury, of Minter Ellison, said that a few days before a hearing to enforce the order, Phantastes had agreed to find an engineering solution to the matter.

After time extensions because of bad weather, Phantastes completed bracing work on the sculpture by the final deadline of January 20 this year.

Mr Bell said, "WeChr(39)ve got what we wanted all along, that the structure is safe for the public, but it never should have gone this far."

The demolition order had now been withdrawn. Mr Bradbury said, "When Judge Sheahan looked at the outcome of the whole matter, he found the council had been successful.

"On that basis he ruled that Tony [Phantastes] should pay the costs."

The only court costs Phantastes would not be liable for were those relating to two applications made to vacate hearing dates, in February and May 2000.

The applications were made by Phantastes because of family problems, and the court found both parties would pay their own costs in those instances.

Mr Bell suggested that Phantastes could make a financial offer to the council, as the full amount payable would be considerable.

"Tony would be better off sitting down with the council and discussing it," he said.

The exact amount for which the sculptor was liable would be revealed at a council meeting on Monday, February 19.

Phantastes could contact the council before then, Mr Bell said.

Phantastes was not available for comment last night.

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