Australia: Tower standoff: residents told not to go home as tensions rise - PressFrom - Australia

AustraliaTower standoff: residents told not to go home as tensions rise

10:55  11 january  2019
10:55  11 january  2019 Source:

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Video provided by Nine News

The owners' strata committee for western Sydney's Opal Tower is urging residents not to return to the cracked building, despite the builder giving most residents the all-clear to move back home.

Some residents have been living in hotels for more than two weeks after they were evacuated when the high-rise building suffered cracking on Christmas Eve.

Tower standoff: residents told not to go home as tensions rise© Supplied Heavy construction equipment has been used inside apartments at Opal Tower.

While building company Icon has told residents those not impacted by the major remedial works can return home on Saturday, the building's strata committee has urged them to resist until they receive written guarantees about the building's safety.

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"We urge residents NOT to agree to reoccupy the building," the owners' strata committee said in an email to residents on Friday.

Instead, owners are encouraging residents to wait until all four groups of engineers issue written statements declaring the building safe.

Late on Friday, the government confirmed it had received the investigators' interim report. A spokesman for Planning Minister Anthony Roberts said: "The Minister will consider it and make it public within days."

Professors Mark Hoffman and John Carter, leading the government investigation, said the report was interim because they were "still gathering data to inform our assessment of the design and construction issues, as well as the scope of the proposed rectification work required".

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"We expect that our report will be an important input to the discussions between the builders and the owners’ corporation," the professors said.

The uncertainty over when people should return to the building is causing conflict between the owners' corporation and some residents.

Tower standoff: residents told not to go home as tensions rise© Nick Moir Some residents are unsure whether to return home on the weekend.

Some apartment owners told the Herald: "It’s preferable that the residents wait - why should we go back to a building site?"

"We are happy to go back when it’s safe. But only an engineer can decide that, not a builder."

One tenant, Daniel Plunkett, said the situation was "a bit strange" with a growing divide emerging between tenants and the strata committee.

"We understand [owners] are concerned about the value of their property, but people are desperate to go home. You just can’t live your life in a hotel."

Mr Plunkett said tenants were split into two camps, with some happy to move back on Saturday but "there’s a whole lot of people who don’t want to".

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Another resident said tenants were "caught in the cross fire" between Icon and the owners' corporation. A third resident said he was planning to move back in "unless our landlord expressly says we cannot".

A spokeswoman for Icon said hotel reservations had been extended until Wednesday for residents wishing to delay moving home.

Meanwhile, a legal expert has warned the government could be held liable if court action proceeds.

Grace Lawyers partner Colin Grace said he believed the Sydney Olympic Park Authority (SOPA) could be classified as the site's developer under the Home Building Act, exposing taxpayers to potential legal action.

"It sounds like SOPA were the original owner of the land and may be considered by the court to be a developer," Mr Grace said.

He said the best-case scenario was that Icon and the owners' corporation agreed on a solution to the building's problems, but the authority "might be the last person standing if they can't sort it out".

Owners were in a critical situation, he said, with the risk of lengthy litigation if the building is not fixed. "If it goes pear-shaped, it's going to be very painful and very lengthy," he said.

Mr Grace said a successful class action by owners to get their money back would be "very difficult, because you'll have to get somebody to say you'll have to knock the building down".

"I wish [owners] all the very best on that one," he said.

SOPA has been contacted for comment.

More work, more info needed on Opal tower.
A NSW government-commissioned investigation is yet to uncover the exact reason why cracks appeared in the structure of the 36-storey Opal Tower in Sydney.

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