DEVELOPERS … often refer to Australia’s high Standards

… but how many adhere to them?

DESPITE the trauma in this instance the CITY OF SYDNEY is acting to ensure that the land is safe, and that residents and the public do not have ongoing onerous management requirements placed on them …

Was the developer cutting corners in failing to properly clean up the toxic land under this project?

MEANWHILE … with the NSW Govt consulting over a reform package, why is it that the real issues of loss of Standards adherence, and deregulation that happen to benefit the developer lobby are being overlooked?

‘It’s a joke. We can’t go on like this’: fourth block of units abandoned in Sydney Australia

Carrie Fellner
By Carrie Fellner

July 19, 2019

View all comments

An Erskineville apartment development remains a ghost town more than 12 months after it was completed, with the City of Sydney refusing to allow owners to move in over fears the developer did not properly clean up toxic land underneath it.

The Herald’s revelation that owners have been prevented from living in a fourth Sydney apartment building over safety concerns comes less than 24 hours after an emergency meeting between the state and federal governments over the country’s building standards crisis.

The Sugarcube apartment building development in Erskineville has been delayed.
The Sugarcube apartment building development in Erskineville has been delayed.CREDIT: KATE GERAGHTY

The Zetland, Mascot and Opal Tower apartments across Sydney have all been evacuated in the last 12 months due to major defects.

There are no known defects in the Erskineville development.


Sydney's city skyline.

Sydney cladding crisis would take $1 billion to fix, strata body warns

The 109 “Sugarcube” apartments, and 18 “Honeycomb” terraces were built at the old Ashmore industrial estate in Erskineville, with construction finished in April 2018 according to promotional material.

Furious buyers who paid upwards of $1 million for a slice of “the sweet life” have been left demanding answers over why they have been left in limbo.

Some purchased off-the-plan as far back as early 2015.

In a statement to the Herald, a City of Sydney spokesperson said the developer had “not complied with the development consent conditions concerning the remediation of the site”.

Manufacturing had left behind a cocktail of toxic substances on the land, including heavy metals, hydrocarbons, asbestos and contaminated groundwater.

The city was in “ongoing discussions” seeking a resolution with the developer, Golden Rain Development Pty Ltd.

“We understand this is a most frustrating situation for all terrace and apartment owners,” the City of Sydney spokesperson said.

The Honeycomb terraces in Erskineville.
The Honeycomb terraces in Erskineville.CREDIT:KATE GERAGHTY

Golden Rain Development did not return the Herald’s calls on Thursday.

The company’s website said it had “a strong reputation in all facets of property development” established over the last 15 years.

Golden Rain has completed 30 projects across Asia and the Erskineville development is its “flagship project” in Sydney.

Buyers have taken to the City of Sydney’s social media pages to vent their frustrations about the “never-ending saga”.

They complained of being forced to put their lives on hold as they stayed in spare bedrooms, Airbnbs and elderly parents’ homes.

“All of our possessions are in storage or in bags and boxes,” one man wrote. “We have had to extend our home loan SIX TIMES while we wait … it’s a joke. We can’t go on like this any longer.”

Another man complained he was “utterly appalled by the lack of communication and transparency from all parties involved”.

“Constantly waiting for even the slightest shred of info [sic] to a never-ending saga leaves us feeling drained and anxious about the future of our apartment.”

The City of Sydney spokesperson said it had been in “regular contact” with a number of purchasers.

The Sugarcube apartment in Erskineville, Sydney; and the interior of the empty apartment at the complex.
The Sugarcube apartment in Erskineville, Sydney; and the interior of the empty apartment at the complex. CREDIT:KATE GERAGHTY

*The developer had requested it address the contamination via an environmental management plan, which would require ongoing site monitoring.

*The council had requested the plan be formally submitted in an application to change the existing development approval.

The council has also asked for further testing and “potentially further [remediation] works” at the Honeycomb Terraces site, public areas and roads giving access to the Sugarcube apartments.

The development is situated on the corner of Metters and Zenith Street, about 400 metres from Erskineville station.

*The council spokesperson said it was reviewing further test results and a risk assessment provided by the developer and it would likely seek further information.

“We will continue to work with the developer until we are satisfied they’ve taken all necessary steps to ensure the site is suitable for residential purposes,” the spokesperson said.

*“The city is acting to ensure that the land is safe for future residents and the public, as well as avoiding any ongoing onerous management requirements being placed on future residents.”

Contaminated groundwater can present a headache for developers of residential towers, particularly where volatile chemicals are present and additions such as basement car parks are required.

Volatile contaminants are readily released into the atmosphere as vapour.

Volatile chemicals can move into buildings, ambient air confined spaces or excavations on a site,” a briefing from the Department of Environment said.

“The potential risk to human health from this exposure pathway should be evaluated.”

The old Ashmore industrial estate is one of the City of Sydney’s largest urban development projects.

The 17-hectare site is being redeveloped in stages and is expected to accommodate around 6000 residents by 2025.

Golden Rain Development won approval in January 2016 to demolish existing industrial warehouses and build its $46 million residential development.

The seven-storey Sugarcube building contains 109 apartments and sits opposite the Honeycomb terraces, a row of 18 three-bedroom homes.

Together they have been marketed as “amongst the most desirable residences ever to grace Erskineville’s leafy village streets”.

When the Herald visited the site it was deserted. Construction hoardings blocked off access to tastefully landscaped courtyards and walls of hanging shrubbery.

At the same time Federal Industry Minister Karen Andrews sat down for an emergency meeting with federal and state governments, where it was agreed national building standards would be pursued.

Ms Andrews said the governments would jointly fund an implementation team to carry out recommendations from the recent Building Confidence report.

The Herald revealed last week that 30 loft-style apartments at 19 Gadigal Avenue in Zetland were quietly abandoned nine months ago over severe water and fire safety defects.

Cracking also forced the evacuation of Sydney Olympic Park’s Opal Tower on Christmas Eve and the Mascot Towers on Bourke Street last month.

Luxury Zetland terrace apartments expected to fetch up to $1.2 million each are allegedly “unsaleable” because of the evacuation of the lofts immediately above them.
Luxury Zetland terrace apartments expected to fetch up to $1.2 million each are allegedly “unsaleable” because of the evacuation of the lofts immediately above them. CREDIT:LOUISE KENNERLEY, CITY OF SYDNEY

Less than a month ago, the minister responsible for the NSW building industry, Kevin Anderson, said there was “no great cause for alarm about building quality in the state and no need to rush into reforms.

The state government is consulting over a proposed reform package, which would include a new registration scheme for building designers and the appointment of a Building Commissioner.

However, has not indicated it will wind back the NSW system of private certification, statutory warranty periods of just two years for minor defects and six years for major defects, and exemptions from mandatory insurance for buildings over three storeys.

Do you know more? Email

Carrie Fellner

Carrie Fellner is an investigative reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.


The Erskineville apartment complex remains empty. Picture: Jeremy Piper

Photo: Daily Telegraph: The Erskineville apartment complex remains empty. Picture: Jeremy Piper