The sheep farmer who lost a Supreme Court case against the RAAF for ignoring her “cease and desist” noise notice has vowed to appeal to the High Court.
“I might end up bankrupt trying but you have to try,” Julie Steepe said. “I don’t have a lot but what I have I protect. And it upsets me to see my sheep upset.”
Steepe last week argued in court that the RAAF owed her $15.3 million because aircraft flying over her farm at Bulahdelah, near RAAF Base Williamtown, were effectively trespassing on her land. She said it contravened her “lawful right to quiet enjoyment of my property” and issued the Air Force a notice to stop.
Speaking on The Australian on Tuesday, Steepe said aircraft – likely to include F-35s, Hawks and PC-9s – were scaring “the bejeezus” out of her sheep.
“They come out of nowhere, they dip down and locate my sheep, and try hard to fly directly over the top of them … You can‘t get away from them.”
Steepe told the newspaper she was able to represent herself in court using her own online research of obscure case law and a paper copy of the Constitution. She has vowed to appeal the ruling and said she will proceed to the High Court if she has to, arguing that she once counted more than 90 planes overhead in just a few hours.
She said it was as if the pilots had said, “Screw you lady, we’ll do whatever we like and you’re just a little sheep farmer from Bulahdelah and you can’t tell us what to do”.
Last week, Australian Aviation reported how Steepe in 2020 issued the RAAF a series of invoices after the organisation didn’t comply with her order to “cease and desist”. The final notice stated it had seven days to show what lawful authority it had to “trespass” on her land.
“A breach of the border … will incur a fee of $AUD167,000 plus a further $AUD167,000 for each subsequent breach,” it 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.”
Unhappy with the response, Steepe took RAAF to the NSW Supreme Court, arguing the invoices now totalled $15.3 million.
She also sought an order to prevent further RAAF aircraft flying over her property.
However, Justice David Davies said in his ruling, “A landowner does not have any right arising from ownership of the land 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.
“The plaintiff submitted that she has a right to ‘quiet enjoyment of the land’, and that is interfered with by the noise of the aircraft. Any notion of quiet enjoyment is a matter between a landlord and a tenant, either as an implied or express condition of a lease.
“The word ‘quiet’ in those circumstances is not concerned with noise as such, but with a right to reside on the land without interruption, interference or disturbance by the landlord or grantor of the land. The only appropriate analogy for an owner of land in fee simple is that no other person has a right to trespass upon the land or, arguably, commit a nuisance on or onto the land.
“As will be seen below, matters of trespass and nuisance as far as aircraft are concerned, have been dealt with by statute. The plaintiff has no other ‘right’ of quiet enjoyment.”