Jeff Champion pictured at Champions Quarry, Wyrallah Road, Tucki, after winning approval to expand. Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star
Jeff Champion pictured at Champions Quarry, Wyrallah Road, Tucki, after winning approval to expand. Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star

Former mayor and son gave 'inaccurate, improbable' evidence

A NSW Supreme Court judge has handed down a decision against a company previously directed by a former Lismore mayor, as well as his son.

AR Mortgages Pty Ltd had repossessed a property on Hazlemount Lane and Tuckurimba from Reavill Farm Pty Ltd, a company whose directors are former Lismore mayor Jeffrey Champion and his wife Diana.

Reavill Farm entered into a loan agreement with the lender in November 2018.

Along with a mortgage over two lots, charge over livestock associated with a particular property identification code was used as security on this loan, Justice Richard Cavanagh said in his judgment on Friday.

The court heard Reavill Farm - the company used for the Champions' farming operations - defaulted on the loan within several months.

A bitter dispute about cattle ownership then arose between AR Mortgages, Tucki Hills Pty Ltd and the Champions' son, Matthew Champion.

Tucki Hills and Matthew Champion both lodged claims against AR Mortgages, claiming ownership of 30 and 15 head of cattle respectively.

Until April, Jeffrey Champion was the sole director and single shareholder of Tucki Hills.

In April, another company became the main shareholder of Tucki Hills and Matthew Champion became its director.

A week after he became a director of Tucki Hills, Matthew Champion filed his own motion claiming possession of 15 cattle.

Tucki Hills, meanwhile, was claiming 30 head of cattle, although it was argued that up to 120 cattle were "wrongly taken" by AR Mortgages.

Tucki Hills and Mr Champion argued these were not part of the "secured livestock" owned by Reavill Farm and subject to repossession by the lender.

Justice Cavanagh found neither Matthew Champion nor Tucki Hills had established ownership of the cattle.

Jeffrey Champion said in an October 2019 affidavit Reavill Farm owned 352 livestock.

The livestock were subject to two valuation reports and at the time of the second one, last September, Slattery Asset Advisory estimated 366 cattle were owned by the company.

"Only 291 cattle have ever been recovered by AR Mortgages," Justice Cavanagh said.

Jeffery Champion argued the lender obtained a further report with a reduced estimate and claimed this report had been hidden.

"No evidence was adduced to support this assertion," Justice Cavanagh said.

The only document relied upon for Tucki Hills' cattle ownership was a 2017-18 "financial statement", prepared by Matthew Champion's sister, Belinda Nott.

"He maintained ignorance of the conviction of Ms Nott relating to preparation of false documents," Justice Cavanagh said.

Justice Cavanagh found neither Jeffrey Champion nor his son to be credible witnesses.

"Their evidence was demonstrated to be inaccurate and improbable," he said.

"In the circumstances, Tucki Hills has not established that it owns or has any entitlement to possession of any of the cattle now in the possession or formerly in the possession of the defendant.

"Matthew Champion's personal application fails for similar reasons."

He dismissed applications brought by Matthew Champion and Tucki Hills and ordered both to pay AR Mortgages' costs.