COFFS Harbour City Councillor John Arkan has this week been ordered to pay more than $89,000 in court costs to blueberry company Mountain Blue Orchards, following being found guilty of illegally growing and selling a protected blueberry plant earlier this year.
The order was handed down by Registrar Lynch at the Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane on Tuesday morning.
Cr Arkan now has four weeks to pay the fee of $89,061.81 to cover the legal fees and court costs of Mountain Blue Orchards for their court case against him, which began in September last year.
Cr Arkan was contacted by News Of The Area about the matter, however at the time, when we spoke to Akan, he told us he was ‘too busy to talk’.
News Of The Area hopes to be able to bring you Cr Arkan’s view on the matter in a future story.
The $89,000 fine comes on top of the $42,500 Cr Arkan was fined in March this year for selling a special variety of blueberry plant known as Ridley 1111 without a licence, bringing the total amount he has been ordered to repay to $131,561.
Cr Arkan was found by the Federal Court of Australia to have infringed the rights of Mountain Blue Orchards near Lismore, under the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act 1994, a Federal law that enforces protections to certain plant varieties.
Mountain Blue Orchards produces the protected Ridley 1111 blueberry plant, which is known for its higher quality fruit and earlier availability than other blueberry varieties.
Cr Arkan was found to have produced and reproduced propagating material of the Ridley 1111 variety and offering propagating material for sale, without the licence or authority of Mountain Blue Orchards.
He was found to have infringed the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act 1994 by claiming the right to offer propagating material for sale and claiming the right to sell propagating material without the licence or authority of Mountain Blue Orchards.
Cr Arkan was ordered by the court to serve on Mountain Blue Orchards an affidavit setting out the number and location of plants of the Ridley 1111 variety, other propagating material and fruit harvested from the plants in his possession.
He was also ordered to deliver up for destruction, and destroy, in the presence of Mountain Blue Orchards all plants, other propagating material and fruit at his Woolgoolga property.
Mountain Blue Orchards was permitted by the court to enter Cr Arkan’s Woolgoolga property to visually inspect any structures and vehicles located on the property to check Cr Arkan’s compliance with the court order.
Cr Arkan was also ordered to serve an affidavit on Mountain Blue Orchards stating his compliance with the court order.
He was also ordered to serve upon Mountain Blue Orchards an affidavit setting out the total number of plants grown by or on his behalf, when each plant was created or acquired by him, the names and contact details of those who created each plant, from whom each plant was acquired and the price each plant was acquired for.
As well as details of the number of plants offered for sale, when they were sold, the contact details of those who purchased the plants, the costs of producing the plants, and the amount of profit he made from selling the plants.
He was also ordered to detail the volume of fruit harvested, when it was sold, the contact details of those it was sold to, the price it was sold at, the costs to produce the fruit and the profit he made from the sale of the fruit.
Cr Arkan was ordered to pay Mountain Blue Orchards $42,500 in compensatory damages in March and to pay the company’s court costs, which has been finalised this week.
This is not the first time the controversial councillor has flouted the law, in 2018 Cr Arkan was issued an infringement notice for using an unregistered trailer, then in 2019 he was caught making an illegal U-turn in an unregistered and uninsured bus, which displayed unauthorised plates.
Cr Arkan pleaded guilty to these charges in court and took a leave of absence from his role as a Coffs Harbour City councillor for several months, before returning to Council and resuming his role as a local councillor.