Blogger ordered to pay thousands over defamatory comments
TWO men involved in the creation and ultimate collapse of a shared-living community at Mt Burrell have successfully sued a blogger for defamation.
The blogger, Gillian Norman, had consistently accused Adrian Brennock and Phillip Dixon of fraud and deception over their plans to build a utopian village.
Ms Norman had invested $120,000 into a block of land at the Bhula Bhula Intentional Community on a property at Mount Burrell in 2015.
But when it became clear there was no chance her dream of living at the village would become a reality, she began blaming Mr Brennock and Mr Dixon in her two blogs and in an article published in the Nimbin Good Times newspaper.
The pair had been involved in the promotion of the estate to potential investors.
A judge last week found Ms Norman's posts were defamatory towards Mr Brennock and Mr Dixon and awarded them each $200,000 plus legal costs.
First marketed in 2014 by the Truthology movement, the commune at a 250ha former farm at 3222 Kyogle Rd was purchased by Wollumbin Horizons Pty Ltd for $1.175 million in 2015.
It promised three- to five-acres of private use land from $120,000 to $180,000 for each unit holder in the village which offered "living harmoniously", "co-operative power" an "amazing Community Centre" and "much more".
However, problems arose when it was discovered no development applications had been lodged with Tweed Shire Council.
The NSW Land and Environment Court in 2017 ordered the community to remove any buildings and structures erected on the land.
Last week, Supreme Court Justice Desmond Fagan said during his ruling the Bhula Bhula project was "undoubtedly a debacle" but found Ms Norman had not shown justification for "her assertion that the conduct (of the plaintiffs)…. went beyond folly to fraud".
He also ordered a permanent injunction restraining Ms Norman from making any further publications about the Bhula Bhula project.
"Her persistence in the defence of truth, in the absence of evidence, is a strong indication of her fixated, crusading belief that they are fraudsters," Mr Fagan said.
"Nor does she recognise the degree to which her own lack of care and judgment contributed to her loss.
"She made a substantial investment without obtaining independent professional advice as to whether her intentions for use of the land could be carried out."