You may remember we reported on emergency access issues at Wallacia Caravan Park in our May issue of Outasite Lite. Residents considered the emergency access arrangements in the park to be complicated and inadequate – putting them at risk. Tom Mortimer, a Tenant Advocate from the Western Sydney Tenants’ Service who assisted residents, tells us more about how a great outcome was achieved…
Emergency access issues had been a concern for the community of Wallacia Caravan Park since 2012. A number of residents had approached the park manager informally, making clear their concerns surrounding the main and emergency exits, and the potentially tragic consequences. They also made an application for orders from the Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal in 2013.
Unfortunately, the residents’ view was not shared by the manager, and the Tribunal application was unsuccessful because it was made ‘out of time’. So the emergency access issues, as well as a series of additional concerns – for example, the condition of the toilet block – remained unresolved.
Residents approached us at the Western Sydney Tenants’ Service at Macquarie Legal Centre for assistance in the second half of 2014. The service’s co-ordinator Franya Repolusk is as good a negotiator as you will ever meet, and a veteran in hands-on residential parks work. She agreed to take carriage of the matter for 13 Wallacia residents. Myself and another advocate, Jayd Raffoul, provided assistance. We also consulted with Paul Smyth from the Tenants’ Union’s residential parks team.
After being frustrated in all our attempts to deal with the park’s manager, we decided we needed to go higher up the pecking order. We confirmed that the Mayor of Penrith was a Trust member. So in February 2015 we contacted his Council office directly, outlining the gravity of our concerns and suggesting a meeting to nut out a solution.
This spurred the Trust to reconsider. They agreed to meet and negotiate on the issue. After a long, drawn out meeting with myself, Franya and a resident on one side and a Trust member and his solicitor on the other, we were able to finalise a series of proposals to take to the next Trust meeting. The proposals addressed all of our concerns regarding the park. Most importantly, they provided that local emergency services would be given a pin number that would allow them rapid access to the park via the front gate.
The proposals were considered, adopted, and acted upon in the months following that Trust meeting. Residents were relieved they would now be living in a safer environment and had been able to move past a longstanding dispute. Our service was happy to have played a role in achieving this outcome.
The take away message here is that nobody should accept living in an unsafe environment. If you’re concerned about the state of your residential park, your local Tenants Advice and Advocacy service wants to hear about it. So don’t hesitate to get in touch.