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Family fights on to keep farms

Kate PollardCountryman
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One of the State's biggest grain growing families is continuing a legal fight against one of the big four banks to retain their farms.

On Friday, the Supreme Court granted NAB a property seizure and delivery order against Dennis Joyce and sons Ryan and Trystan and their family companies, Quidor and Neamer.

The order authorises entry to the property to take possession.

Last month, Supreme Court judge James Edelman granted the bank access to 19 properties in Lake Grace, Newdegate, Varley and Karlgarin.

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Injunctions against Ryan and Trystan Joyce were also granted, ordering them to vacate the properties and stopping them from re-entering them or restricting the bank or receivers from entering to exercise their powers of sale.

One of the reasons for the injunctions was the threatening behaviour of Ryan towards the receivers when they tried to enter the properties.

The injunction decision, made on June 22, was published in a 26-page judgment on the Supreme Court website.

It refers to an email from Dennis Joyce to a solicitor for the bank saying the bank has no legal or lawful authority to act.

It also reveals that in 2009, NAB provided the Joyce family company, Connemara, with a $12.15 million farm management account overdraft, a floating rate bill facility of $14 million, a fixed rated bill facility of $10 million and a flexible bill facility of $12.9 million.

By April 2010, the overdraft was reduced to $10.9 million and the first bill facility to $4 million but Connemara was given another $9.2 million overdraft and bank guarantee facility of $2.7 million.

In exchange, Connemara granted the bank a fixed and floating charge over present and future assets and Dennis and Trystan, Quidor and Neamer provided two guarantees - limited to $70.1 million in 2009 and $11.9 million in 2010.

The Joyces' 19 properties were mortgaged between June 2007 and February 2009, giving the bank power to take possession of the properties and power to sell in the event of a default of more than one day.

In January, Connemara defaulted on a payment to Rural Liquid Fertiliser Company, placing it in default of the bank facilities and insolvent.

By March 1, the bank claimed the default was $72.1 million and by May 31, the approximate amount owed under the guarantees was $65 million.

Receiver McGrathNicol was appointed by NAB in March and in May the bank had to postpone what was to be the State's biggest clearing sale after a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman.

The complaint, contesting the validity of the receiver's appointment, was dismissed and since May 4, the Joyce family, who are representing themselves, have locked the gates and put up signs warning that trespassers will be prosecuted.

An email referred to in the judgment and written by Ryan Joyce to the bank and receiver, warns access without invitation or appointment will be deemed as trespassing and those persons will be forcibly removed and prosecuted.

The email referred to the High Court decision of Plenty v Dillon, where a farmer stopped police from entering his property in South Australia. Ryan Joyce told _Countryman _ they wanted full disclosure from the bank before entry on the properties.

He said they had requested the bank's promissory notes, bookkeeping entries and loan application documents and without these, the gates would be kept locked.

"I encourage anyone with a bank loan to ask for these same documents," he said.

As the bank and the Joyces battle it out, the sale of the properties is on hold.

A NAB spokesman said that due to confidentiality they were not able to comment on individual customer circumstances.

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