We Live Here recently celebrated its first birthday and what a year it has been!
As readers of this column will know, the We Live Here movement arose from the long-running but ultimately unsuccessful case against short-stays involving Watergate Apartments in Docklands.
Since its genesis at a very well attended launch in December 2015, We Live Here has tapped into widespread community frustration about issues of high-density living that are not being adequately addressed by politicians and law makers, and has become a recognised voice for owners and residents in strata communities throughout the greater Melbourne area affected by these issues.
In our first We Live Here column in February 2016 we identified some of the issues as being related to town planning, health and safety, fire safety, disability access, parking, equitable levies, insurance, serious building defects, shortage of schools etc.
However the need for regulation of short-stay apartments in residential buildings, the reason for We Live Here coming into being in the first place, was the issue identified from our rapidly-growing supporter base of 180 buildings and 400 individuals as causing the most wide-spread concern, and where we directed most of our energy and resources.
So what has We Live Here achieved in the first 12 months?
The defeat of the Owners Corporation Amendment (Short –stay Accommodation) Bill 2016 in the Legislative Council in November, that would have only benefited the short-stay operators at the expense of residents. The parliamentary debate focused on the submission presented by We Live Here and is now recorded in Hansard;
The Bill has now been referred to the Environment and Planning Committee for an open and wide-ranging enquiry, which is what we had been lobbying for;
Through this process close relationships have been developed with Liberal shadow ministers, the Greens and other cross-benchers;
Tentative first meetings with government ministers, previously impossible before We Live Here was formed;
Getting to know our councillors through individual meetings and inviting their participation in a number of forums;
86 per cent of candidates standing for council at the October election responded to a We Live Here survey on short-stays, with all but one team in support of regulation (i.e. a minimum of 30-day stays). The high profile candidate who did not support regulation and was not elected to council later commented that he had learned his lesson … “don’t annoy residents groups”;
We contribute a monthly column to the CBD News, Southbank Local News and Docklands News – this one is the 12th – which has enabled us to regularly report on issues affecting residents, and readers of the column are a valuable source of new supporters; and
Provided active support for the City Schools for City Kids Campaign and the Docklands residents who have been campaigning long and hard about the lack of consultation in the development of Harbour Esplanade Master Plan.
What lies ahead in the second year of We Live Here?
The major focus for the first few months of 2017 will be to:
Carry out an extensive review of We Live Here, its aims and objectives, and to set goals for the year ahead; and
To participate in the wide-ranging enquiry into short-stays to be chaired by the Shadow Minister for Planning, David Davis. We will be inviting supporters of We Live Here to make submissions to the enquiry – to tell their story.
Short stays are here to stay. However, there needs to be good legislation that can guide us along the right path so as not to be detrimental to owners and residents who choose to make apartments their home.
Legislation should also provide owners’ corporations with the powers to take appropriate action on those who abuse the facilities.
Amendments to the planning laws to protect owners and residents rights are required.
It’s not a case of saying “not in my back yard”, apartment owners are more concerned with “not at my front door, in my lift lobby, swimming pool or car park, unless I get to choose when and how often”. After all we do live in a democracy and should not be overruled by a minority.
The Bill proposed was clearly written by people who have never had to pursue a strata by-law breach, even when you know who has done what and which law they were breaking.
Currently the short operators are not responsible or accountable for their guests. Trying to chase down party animals and their elusive guests who don’t confirm to OC rules leaving us all to pick up the costs of repairs and damage, etc is a joke as the short-term offender is long gone.
Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to make a submission and more information will be sent to you as it comes to hand.
Finally a not-for-profit advocacy group such as We Live Here needs financial support to survive.
Thank you to those of you – individuals and buildings – who have already made valuable contributions to the cause.
We hope that many more will do so in 2017.
We are particularly keen to hear from strata committees, and would welcome enquiries.
Happy Yew Year to you all.