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News

Short-term-holiday-letting: Byron’s opportunity to lead on policy

Calls to stem the tide of short-term holiday letting in Byron Shire have finally been heard with Anthony Roberts, the minister for planning, announcing a ministerial direction allowing Byron Council to have some degree of determination over how holiday letting is implemented locally. We cautiously welcome the announcement,’ said acting Mayor Michael Lyon. ‘Zero days of short-term-holiday-letting is not on the table for current precincts. We were listened to in relation to new housing developments. Where new developments go ahead there may be the opportunity to exclude holiday letting.’ Greens Member for Ballina Tamara Smith MP has welcomed the decision by the NSW Government to reverse its ‘one-size-fits-all holiday letting legislation’. ‘This is great news for residents of Byron Shire and for Byron Bay who have been so dramatically affected by the large numbers of whole houses available for short term letting for long periods of the year, forcing long term renters out of Byron,’ said Ms Smith.  
Echo NetDaily

'Biggest shake-up in building laws in our state's history' follows Opal Tower debacle

A “Building Commissioner” will have responsibility for auditing people who work in the industry, the NSW government says in its long-awaited response to a major review of regulation of the building and construction sector. The government will also tighten protections for homeowners and owners’ corporations, to help ensure they receive compensation if builders or engineers have been negligent.
Matt Kean MP

'Biggest shake-up in building laws in our state's history' follows Opal Tower debacle

In the wake of the Opal Tower debacle, in which design and construction failures contributed to faults in the 36-storey building, NSW Fair Trading Minister Matt Kean on Sunday released the government’s response to a national report into compliance and enforcement in the building industry.  Mr Kean described the response as the “biggest shake-up in building and construction laws in our state's history.” “When you purchase a property in NSW, you have every right to expect that that property is safe, structurally sound, and free from major defects. And unfortunately that is not always the case,” he said.  
The Sydney Morning Herald
Jacob Saulwick

Greens want to reintroduce public building certification in an effort to protect property owners

The NSW Greens have called for an end to private building certification in an effort to protect building owners and raise standards in the construction industry.  Speaking at the trouble plagued Landmark apartment block in Charlestown – dubbed Newcastle’s Opal Tower – Greens planning spokesman David Shoebridge said the current system had failed thousands of homeowners across the state since its introduction in 1998. Aidan Ellis faces a bill of $360,000 to repair defects, including substandard materials and a lack of waterproofing and insulation in his Landmark apartment.  His is one of a number of apartments where defects were identified shortly after the Landmark building was completed in 2008.  The building’s developer/builder Peter Durbin wound up his two companies behind the project after the Landmark’s 59 unit owners took legal action.
Newcastle Herald
Matthew Kelly

Election Connection as OCN Faces the Big Issues for 2019

Last year was huge for the Owners Corporation Network (OCN), the only significant body for apartment owners, run by apartment owners. Most notably, they were hugely instrumental in turning what would have been potentially the worst short-term holiday letting (STHL) laws in the country into what could well be the very best. But it’s a new year and that means new challenges, not least the Opal Tower crisis where OCN has been offering advice and support to residents. Then there’s the small matter of the State elections in NSW where the margins could be so tight that we may well be heading for a hung parliament.
Flat-Chat
Jimmy Thomson

Opal Tower: The Tale of Faulty Towers

The Christmas Eve 2018 evacuation of Opal Tower residents following loud 'cracking sounds' is just the beginning of the journey for the owners and those tenants who elect to stay. 60 Minutes takes a peak into the fraught world of new high-rise apartments.  
Channel 9
Ross Greenwood

ACT government 'ignores' call to ease rates pressure on unit owners

The ACT government has ignored calls to immediately overhaul the city's ratings system to help ease the burden of rising rates on Canberra's apartment owners, owners say, but it will review the system in the next two years. The government has promised to publicly review the system and is considering whether any such changes may be needed in either the 2019-20 or 2020-21 budget, and intends to announce the new policy settings for the third five-year period of its 20-year tax reforms in 2022-23. But Owners Corporation Network head Gary Petherbridge said the proposed review came with no guarantee of actual changes in the future, and the government's response showed it was simply ignoring the community. A raft of unit owners previously told the committee the changes made in the 2017-18 budget had sent the valuations of their units soaring, leading in turn to massive increases in rates in a single year.
The Canberra Times
Daniel Burdon

Aidan Ellis must leave his Charlestown unit for months because of long-standing defects

AFTER five years waging a bitter battle to have major damage to his Charlestown penthouse apartment repaired because of common property defects, Aidan Ellis invoked hit Australian film The Castle in a message to Opal unit owners in Sydney who think they’ll be returning to their damaged homes soon. “Tell them they’re dreaming,” said Mr Ellis, an engineer, who is about to leave his apartment for months of repairs estimated at $360,000, that he expects will climb before the job is completed. A second Landmark penthouse apartment owner does not expect to return to her home until February after moving out in August so that builders could repair defective common property, including the roof, wall cladding and a large veranda, where the defects have caused extensive damage in her unit. The apartments are two of a number where defects have not been addressed since shortly after the Landmark was completed in 2008. By the time it won a NSW Master Builders excellence in construction award in 2009 the first of two reports showed clear and significant defects. Landmark developer/builder Peter Durbin wound up his two companies behind the project after the Landmark’s 59 unit owners took legal action.
Newcastle Herald
Joanne McCarthy

Welcome to the Faulty Towers state, where any mug's an engineer

I’m sorry, run that by me again? We don’t require engineers to be licensed, qualified or registered? So the hundreds of shonky-looking resi-towers newly metastasising across our city don’t just look like slums-in-waiting but may have no structural or fire integrity to speak of because anyone, including my great aunt Cecily’s dog Tozer, can sign their engineering certificates. Seriously? In our world, building is driven by profit. Beneath that, three systems intersect: legal, planning and engineering. If I owned a new Sydney apartment – which thank God I don’t – all three would be keeping me awake at night. Engineers – fire, structural and civil – we trust with our lives. In boom situations, where local firms are routinely swallowed by international conglomerates (such as WSP which engineered Opal), where the market is flooded with shonky materials and practices are self-certified, unregulated engineering makes sense like unregulated brain surgery. Welcome to Faulty Towers.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Elizabeth Farrelly

On Byron Bay’s slow democracy and fast money

Byron Bay on the NSW north coast is not just an iconic holiday destination but a highly green one. It’s also a bit of a “canary”. If Byron can’t make good planning and a healthy environment stick, with its lush history of hippies and deep greens, then it’s going to be a lot harder for anyone else. So it was instructive and maybe slightly unnerving to call in there (briefly) to chat with some locals and find that not all is well in Paradise. Lurking beneath the glamour and natural beauty are stories of the stifling by-products of success, left unchecked. Former long term mayor of Byron Bay Jan Barham renowned for her feisty defence of the town’s inhabitants and its green agenda says Airbnb and its forebear homestays are a scourge, robbing the town of affordable accommodation and putting enormous pressure on services and development.
The Fifth Estate

What lies beneath the cracks in Opal Tower — and buildings across Australia

The saga of Opal Tower, the 36-storey Sydney apartment building evacuated on Christmas Eve after frightening cracking, has helped to expose the deep cracks in Australia's approach to building apartments. The tower's size, age (it is less than six months old) and the timing of its cracks might have made it particularly newsworthy, but badly built apartment blocks are far from unusual. Right now across Australia's cities many buildings have significant leaks, cracks and fire safety failings. So we can't just address faults in individual developments. We need to identify the systemic flaws in how "compact city" policies have been planned and implemented. As the population of Australia's capital cities grows, more of us are living in apartments. Governments have been promoting greater housing density as an alternative to sprawl for decades. But they haven't always ensured this density has been done well, including in terms of building quality. We can't afford to ignore the growing evidence that our cities are cracking under the strain. Because like the Opal Tower owners, we're all going to bear the cost when things go wrong, and we'll all have to live amid the wreckage.
ABC News first published in The Conversation
Laura Crommelin Bill Randolph Hazel Easthope Martin Loosemore

Opal Tower: Body corporate warns against return amid calls for building industry audit

Residents of Sydney's Opal Towers, who were forced to leave their homes on Christmas Eve, are facing more uncertainty over whether they can return to their apartments. While the tower's builder has given many residents the green light, the body corporate is recommending people wait for more engineering assessments to be done.
SBS

The ‘systemic’ issues plaguing the building industry for ‘decades’

From mushrooms sprouting from mouldy floors, to tradies cutting corners and “mates” certifying buildings, experts say systemic problems are plaguing the building industry, and our homes.  And while Sydney’s Opal Tower debacle thrust them into the spotlight and put further pressure on governments to act, they say issues have been going on for decades. A report last year revealed huge problems in the construction industry. It took three months for the government to release the report, a further several months for senior officers to meet about it and only next month are they gathering again to see where progress — if any — is at. Co-author of the Shergold and Weir report Building Confidence, Bronwyn Weir, said when she read about the Opal Tower she “was not surprised”.  “We were looking at systems used across the country and whether they’re adequate,” Ms Weir said. “There were systemic issues."
News.com.au
Stephanie Bedo

Government expert says Opal crisis could have been avoided

Michael Lambert, whose review of the Building Professionals Act contained 150 recommendations for improving quality control in new buildings, claims there are thousands of other defective buildings whose plight is never reported. Mr Lambert says defects in 85 per cent of the state's newly built apartment blocks, as revealed in a UNSW study, are the result of a systemic problem that will only get worse at "massive costs to individuals and society". "Defects are cheap if they can be fixed before the building is completed," he said, claiming the costs would be one-tenth of fixing issues after the matter, while avoiding residents having to move out and having their lives disrupted. "But there needs to be an effective regulatory system," he added. "There's a problem with this being in Fair Trading which is very reactive and passive. They don't have a proactive approach."
The Australian Financial Review
Sue Williams and Jimmy Thomson

What Members Say

"The whole strata community owes a huge debt of gratitude to you and the OCN executive. Much appreciated."

Robert, Darlinghurst

"I am very pleased with my membership of OCN, the discussions through sharing emails is very valuable in increasing my knowledge of strata living, the laws and EC responsibilities. I think I am better armed to tread the minefield of the managing agent responsibilities and the necessary action of the EC to monitor the contradictory interests of the agent."

Jim, Wollstonecraft

"I so appreciate being part of the OCN email forum. It provides a great opportunity for sharing ideas and learning"

Ingrid, Neutral Bay

"I must say that I have enjoyed and found consolation in the discussions that have been part of the email chain (forum). I did attend one general meeting and found that it was informative and the people "running the show" were knowledgeable and dedicated to the tasks that had taken on. In short, well done. You and the committee have and continue to support the Strata Community in a very professional manner."

Greg, Parramatta

"Nothing is easy in Strata World and we have been in building defects “mode” for some years – hopefully almost at an end but that process has been most demanding and difficult but again – greatly helped by the experience and wise counsel of other members of OCN."

Pat, St Leonards

"Keep up the good work, as many (if not most) strata schemes need your help, advice and representation at all levels of government."

Jann and John, St Ives

"I belong to OCN because of its professionalism.  I have found the meetings I have been to extremely well presented, to the point, and of course very topical and informative. Speakers on the whole certainly know their topic.  My role of Secretary last year was certainly assisted with the coverage regarding TPG & other subjects. Member newsletters are also of benefit as the topics are specific to strata matters."

Graham, East Balmain

I have enjoyed attending the quarterly OCN meetings and the exchange of emails between other Executive Committee Members and think OCN is playing an increasingly important role as a voice for strata dwellers and representing us at Government level. I wish the organisation continuing success in the future."

Pauline, Kings Cross

"The [forum] response to my question was amazing and really useful.  The OCN community is wonderful so thanks."

Jenny, Killara

"I would like to thank you all for the important effort that you are all putting in to look after apartment owners and tenants. It is so valuable and you are heroes. I would not have been able to deal with my duties as a strata chairman without your advice and assistance." 

Angela, Mascot

"The OCN is invaluable – many thanks."

Bill, Surry Hills

"OCN is proving invaluable"

Sue, Neutral Bay

"Thanks to all at OCN for your continuing efforts to keep us up to date with current strata information and advice...it has been very helpful to us"

Kate, Coogee

"When my wife & I first encountered a problematic Executive Committee I heard that OCN was a great help (from a Strata manager whom I knew) so we both joined and have gratefully used the on-line information sources. We continued to happily rely on OCN’s assistance when we progressed to Committee status & later as Chair & Secretary of our Committee. I still use OCN in my current role as Treasurer."

Peter, Chiswick

"Thanks to OCN for being such a rich resource of trustworthy information about strata matters."

Peter, Chiswick

"I wanted to extend my personal thanks for the very informative & interesting event today. The OCN team did an outstanding job in the organisation of this event & I enjoyed it thoroughly. The quality of speakers, the flow of conversation & interaction from the attendees - first class …& of course, the amazing Jimmy T - always a delight."

Sue, Epping

"OCN does a great job in providing a really valuable service to Strata owners."

Lois, Wollongong

"I am sure my appreciation of your good works is echoed by many in the Stratasphere. Keep up the good work."

John, Elizabeth Bay

"Once again, being able to discuss such things through this forum, helps clear the mind, puts things into perspective and helps one to understand their rights and to form a strategy if needs be. As a simple EC member trying to do what is in the best interests of lot owners, I truly value OCN and am grateful."

Pamela, Point Lookout

"The OCN is probably one of the best, most informed and most informative groups I have been involved with."

Alan, Maryville