Farmer bills the air force $15.3million for 'trespassing'

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Farmer sick of fighter jets roaring over her property BILLS the air force $15.3million for ‘trespassing’ and claims the planes could drop pests and disease

  • Julie Steepe issued RAAF with cease and desist for flying over her NSW farm
  • Billed $167,000 for each time a plane was sighted or heard over the property
  • Claimed jets could be carrying pests and disease that would hurt ‘ethical’ farm 
  • Case went to court and was quickly tossed out with Ms Steepe to pay legal costs

A sheep farmer has failed to convince a court the RAAF owes her $15.3 million for flying fighter jets over her property.

NSW woman Julie Steepe issued a series of invoices in 2020 after the air force didn’t comply with her notices for them to ‘cease and desist’.

The final notice, issued on July 30, stated the air force had seven days to show what lawful authority it had to ‘trespass’ on her farm in Bulahdelah, 50km northeast of the RAAF’s Williamtown base.

‘A breach of the border… will incur a fee of $167,000 plus a further $167,000 for each subsequent breach,’ the notice said.

‘This being compensation for breaching my lawful right to quiet enjoyment of my property, as well as my lawful right to the alienation of my property from the Crown.

‘The border of my property extends to the centre of the earth and to the expanse of the universe.’

A Royal Australian Navy MRH-90 Taipan helicopter takes off from Royal Australian Air Force Base Williamtown, Newcastle

A Royal Australian Navy MRH-90 Taipan helicopter takes off from Royal Australian Air Force Base Williamtown, Newcastle

Unsatisfied with a squadron leader’s explanation of the legality of the flights, Ms Steepe took the air force to the NSW Supreme Court, seeking orders that the invoices totalling $15.3 million be paid.

She also sought orders preventing further aircraft incursions and claimed damages due to her privacy was being breached.

Ms Steppe, who says online that she farms ethically, regeneratively and chemical-free, also claimed the aircraft may be carrying pest and disease and therefore be in breach of the NSW Biosecurity Act.

Justice David Davies on Thursday dismissed the case.

Ms Steepe had placed considerable emphasis on one judge’s reasons in a 1923 High Court decision concerning mineral rights and a comment about land extending ‘notionally upward indefinitely’.

But Justice Davies said the position at common law was that a landowner didn’t have any right to prevent aircraft flying over their property, ‘provided that it is at a height above that which is necessary for the ordinary use and enjoyment of the land and the structures upon it’.

Further, the flights over the property were duly authorised under the Airspace Act and the Airspace Regulations.

‘The plaintiff does not demonstrate any right to prevent the flight of the RAAF aircraft over her land,’ the judge said.

Ms Steppe was ordered to pay costs.

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