Leeton farmer cries foul over debt that has crippled his business

Darren Ciavarella's 2014 wheat crop in September, 2014, before it failed - he says because he could not afford to irrigate and fertilise.
Darren Ciavarella's 2014 wheat crop in September, 2014, before it failed - he says because he could not afford to irrigate and fertilise.

A FARMER is fighting to keep the vestiges of his family’s cropping business as a consequence of a $1.37 million loan that turned sour.

Two small properties owned by Darren Ciavarella’s family on Fivebough Road, Leeton, for decades will be auctioned against their will on December 17 after the Court of Appeal confirmed a Supreme Court judgment in favour of lender Hargraves Secured Investments.

Mr Ciavarella still owes Hargraves more than $1 million but claims he would have been able to service the debt had a 2014 agreement he made with the firm to sell $300,000 worth of water entitlements to make interest payments and have money to run his farming enterprise been followed through by Hargraves.

The water was sold, but Hargraves, which controlled the asset as loan security, did not release to Mr Ciavarella the amount he expected after sale fees and interest payments were deducted.

He claims that as a consequence of not having upwards of $193,000 from the water sale to pay other creditors he could not afford to irrigate and fertilise his crops worth $340,000 in the spring and they withered before his eyes.

As a result of the loan crisis that has spiralled out of control for two years now, Mr Ciavarella has already had two farms sold from under him for the debt – he says for less than valuation, but Hargraves says for above valuation.

“I’ve been crippled financially,” Mr Ciavarella said.

Hargraves referred The Daily Advertiser to several court judgments in its favour, including Justice Des Fagan’s Supreme Court decision in June in which he said: “None of the evidence from Darren Ciavarella concerning these matters shows the slightest colour of unconscionable conduct on the part of the plaintiff or of unfairness or injustice in the course of events up to the execution of the Heads (of agreement) on 26 November, 2014.”

But the court’s legal findings fail to satisfy Paul Maytom, who has known the Ciavarella family for many years.

He has helped the family refer their case to the Ramsay review into the finance sector.

“I think there is something wrong with the system,” Mr Maytom said.

“If it can happen to this family it can happen to others.”

Hargraves deducted $75,635 in interest payments from the water sale proceeds but told Mr Ciavarella that as the water belonged to his father’s estate, it would have to account to the estate.

“I am looking at bankruptcy now,” a distraught Mr Ciavarella said.

“It has destroyed 30 years of hard work.”


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