Uniting against proxy farming and rorts

Corruption, secret deals, intimidation, blackmail – no, we are not talking about a new TV series – we are talking about owners’ corporations across Melbourne.

Strata owners at a recent We Live Here seminar heard extraordinary tales of rorts and rip-offs. A number of high-profile owners corporations, from St Kilda Rd, South Melbourne, West Melbourne, Southbank and Docklands shared their incredibly agonising stories.

The May seminar was organised by We Live Here to allow owners’ corporation committee members to share their knowledge and experience about proxy farming, price fixing and rorts.

The seminar was opened by one of the We Live Here directors, Barbara Francis, who was very pleased to announce that the attending committees came from a diverse group of apartments from all around Melbourne - the support base of We Live Here is growing!

The horror stories we heard included:

Proxy farming on a grand scale;

Proxies held by real estate company clerical staff to mask the true extent of the farming;

Sacking committees who dare to question the incumbent contractor;

Essential services and fire safety ignored;

Developers spreading false stories about whistle-blowers;

Building managers skimming millions of dollars in secret electricity commissions;

Common property leased to developers’ mates for no fee;

High maintenance costs without proper maintenance being carried out; and

Defects not addressed.

We Live Here is very grateful for the courageous speakers who stood up and told their stories for others to learn from their experience. We will not reveal any names or identify any properties because of the potential recriminations. Conscientious owners are fighting powerful, vested interests and there is a lot of money at stake.

Another director of We Live Here Helina Marshall, the moderator of the seminar, said the purpose of this type of seminar was to allow committee members to speak freely and exchange ideas about solutions to the problems facing strata communities.

“When there is a problem, we are not alone. Other committees often have the same or similar issues. Only by sharing and learning from each other we will improve our knowledge and skills in dealing with the day-to-day committee or building issues,” she said.

Marshall Delves, another director of We Live Here, reminded the attendees that We Live Here needed the support of many committees to keep going and be stronger.  Although We Live Here is only two and a half years old, we have achieved a lot during this period.  We have good a relationship with the City of Melbourne and have made contacts with a number of key politicians.

The We Live Here seminar was well received and successful. We Live Here will organise more of this type of forum in the future. Watch this space!

Congratulations Sally Capp

We Live Here was honoured to meet with mayoral candidate Sally Capp before the election and we had the opportunity to establish rapport. Now that Cr Capp is Lord Mayor we will be following up on the election commitments that she made.

Last month we noted that plans for the renovation of the Queen Victoria Market, heavily promoted by the previous Lord Mayor, may have to go back to the drawing board because of Heritage Victoria’s refusal of a key element of the proposal. With the election of Cr Capp, we anticipate a radical rethink that will preserve the precinct as the premier tourist attraction in Melbourne. We will keep a close eye on this issue.

When we met, Cr Capp told We Live Here that short-stays must be regulated – the same message that We Live Here has been promoting. Cr Capp showed that she was very well informed about the short-stay issues and the problems that needed to be addressed.

At the meet-the-candidates forums in the run-up to the election, Cr Capp made it clear that, in her view, there was not a level playing field because hotels were complying with all the regulations, paying their staff properly and meeting workplace safety standards.

Cr Capp talked about there being a lot of security issues, damage and noise issues, general interruption and wear-and-tear on buildings, and a lot of uncertainty around safety.

We are pleased to have a mayor who has indicated she is willing to engage with We Live here on an ongoing basis. We look forward to the Lord Mayor following through on her commitments, taking action and escalating the short-stay issue to the state government.

Cr Capp has an open-door policy and has said she would organise community forums to gain first-hand knowledge. We Live Here will keep you informed so that all owners and residents can come along and be heard.

Campaign donations

As a not-for-profit organisation, donations from individuals and buildings keep our campaigns going. To register as a supporter of We Live Here or to make a donation please visit our website at welivehere.net

We Live Here does not accept donations from commercial tourism interests.

We welcome your comments and feedback, and invite suggestions for topics you would like us to address in this column.

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