23/11/2021 - 12:05

Judge mocks Peppy Grove feud

23/11/2021 - 12:05


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Peppermint Grove neighbours best known for their business acumen are fighting in court over a sliver of land "hardly wide enough to accommodate a punnet of petunias".

Judge mocks Peppy Grove feud
Thomas Crage and Anthony Wooles are fighting over the wall between their homes. Photo: David Henry

Peppermint Grove neighbours best known for their business acumen are fighting in the Supreme Court over a sliver of land described as hardly wide enough to accommodate a punnet of petunias.

The action was launched by Thomas Crage, who founded and built Hire Intelligence International into a major retailer and renter of computer equipment.

Mr Crage and his wife Valerie live at 42 The Esplanade, overlooking Freshwater Bay.

Their neighbours include Imdex chairman Anthony Wooles and his wife Alison.

The Crages’ claim the adjoining walls were built entirely on their property and the Wooles’ had trespassed by planting vines that grew over the walls.

Master Craig Sanderson, who is hearing the action, made no secret of his feelings.

“It is worth pausing at this point to marvel at the nature of the relief sought,” he said in an interim judgement this week.

“There is nothing to indicate the plaintiffs (the Crages) intend to demolish either the first wall or the second wall and build a wall on the boundary line.

“Presumably, what they wish to do is lean over the walls from time to time and ensure that the defendants are not in some way interfering with the surface of the wall facing the defendants' property.

“Presumably, they may also from time to time point out to the defendants that the wall is on their land and emphasise that fact ought not be forgotten. 

“Otherwise the status quo, which has existed since 2009 when the second wall was constructed, would continue.”

Master Sanderson said the Crages, who are represented by Hotchkin Hanly Lawyers, want to stop their neighbours from planting vines or painting the adjoining walls.

“They allege that unless restrained from doing so, the defendants intend to commit further such heinous acts and that requires this court to issue an injunction to stop the defendants painting the first and second walls or doing anything which is inconsistent with the plaintiffs' ownership of the walls,” he said.

“In addition, the plaintiffs want a declaration they are the owners of their lot up to the boundary and a declaration that the defendants have no proprietary interest in the land of which the plaintiffs claim ownership.”

The Wooles, represented by KD Legal managing principal and Imdex director Kevin Dundo, responded to the initial action by launching a counterclaim seeking ‘adverse possession’ of the land in question.

Master Sanderson explained this was an unusual claim.

“The party claiming title by adverse possession must trespass on the registered proprietor's property and act as if that property belonged to the trespasser,” he said.

“If that possession, adverse to the interests of the owner, continues for a period of 12 years, then the right and title to the property upon which the person is trespassing passes to the trespasser. 

“Adverse possession is one of the very few, if not the only instance in Australian jurisprudence where a wrongdoer is rewarded for his or her wrongful acts.”

In support of their claim, the Wooles’ argue that whoever built the original wall, in or about 1991, got the line wrong and that the second wall is positioned “on or about” the common boundary of the lots.

The Wooles plead that the wall is, at its greatest point of deviation from the boundary, no more than 135 millimetres inside the Crages' lot.

“In other words, this case concerns a sliver of land hardly wide enough to accommodate a punnet of petunias,” Master Sanderson said.

“Such is the value of land in Peppermint Grove,” he added.

Master Sanderson rejected the Crages’ application to strike out the counterclaim, after concluding the Wooles' position was arguable.

“In any event, this matter is best litigated once and for all so that the respective interests of the parties can be finally determined,” he said.

“This is one of those cases where there is nothing to be gained by interlocutory skirmishing.”

He added that the chance of these parties producing a statement of agreed facts “would seem to be no more than a pious hope”.


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