HOW likely is it that an ‘acceptable’ outcome will be achieved for the residents unless the City of Sydney persists with its strong stand?
More than a year has passed since completion and the developer has neither resolved nor addressed the contamination issues
DUE to the developer’s negligence will residents have to contend with long term remediation techniques?
The NSW Government set development targets for Councils … this was once a swampland with a high water table … will there be further issues once the apartments and terraces are occupied as with the Opal Tower and Mascot Towers?
Toxic secret kept from owners of Erskineville units
July 20, 2019
Owners barred from moving into their apartments for more than a year were blindsided yesterday by revelations toxic contamination was to blame after being told it was an ‘‘unforeseen planning issue’’.
It comes after the Herald revealed City of Sydney has refused to allow residents to occupy the 127 homes – known as the Sugarcube apartments and Honeycomb terraces – since their completion in April 2018.
The council said Golden Rain, the developer behind constructions on the old Ashmore industrial estate, had failed to meet remediation requirements for asbestos, hydrocarbons and heavy metals.
The City of Sydney was also forced to defend its handling of the matter, after questions were raised over whether the shortcomings in remediation should have been uncovered before construction of the buildings began.
A spokesperson said changes were made to a peer-reviewed remediation action plan that “were not approved by the city”.
A final site audit statement was also meant to have been issued before any above ground construction took place, confirming the land had been cleaned up.
“A private certifier issued the construction certificate to allow construction to proceed … despite not having received the final site audit statement,” the City of Sydney spokesperson said.
Golden Rain Development issued a statement on Friday evening, saying it was working with the council to ensure that buyers could begin enjoying their new homes “as soon as possible”.
*”While we understand the delays have caused frustration for future buyers … it is important to remember this project is still in progress,” the statement said.
*”We will continue to keep purchasers informed as we work closely with the City of Sydney to complete the development and obtain the necessary building certification.”
*Owners described it as “unbelievable” and “shocking” to learn of the contamination issue in the media, after desperately pressing for answers for over a year.
Several claimed they were told to “get their finances in order because settlement was imminent” numerous times dating back to late 2017.
In each instance, nothing eventuated.
“We have had to go back to the bank about seven times, as every few months they claimed it would settle,” said John, who declined to give his last name. “They should refund everyone’s deposit.”
Another buyer had left “countless messages” with his real estate agent, Colliers, and the City of Sydney.
“I was on the phone to Colliers back and forth last week,” he said. “When I purchased they were saying this was a fantastic developer and well renowned. It’s just a horrible scenario to be in.”
Golden Rain Development sent a letter to owners in April 2019, acknowledging delays in the issuing of an occupation certificate.
“An unforseen planning issue is at the heart of the delay,” said the letter, seen by the Herald.
The roads and walkways that formed part of the development needed to be transferred back to council before residents could move in, it said.
That process had been held up because council required “additional groundwater testing to ensure the roads are in an acceptable state”.
“Golden Rain Development will also be required to lodge amended planning documents,” the letter said.
“Please be assured these works are unrelated to the Sugarcube apartments or their construction and in no way reflect the integrity of the development or the finished product.”
“They clearly did not mention anything about land contamination,” a buyer said of the letter. “I feel so cheated by them.”
Freedom of information documents show that just a month before the letter was mailed out, the City of Sydney was privately raising concerns about Golden Rain Development’s plans to deal with the contamination issues.
“The contamination issues for public land have not been resolved or addressed at this time,” the council wrote.
“There is further testing to be done … which will then determine what further remediation is necessary, including pilot tests and long term remediation techniques.”
Golden Rain Developments responded to the council that it had appointed a new project team to take a “fresh approach.”
Colliers directed inquiries to Ray White Erskineville, which jointly marketed the project.
A Ray White spokesperson said the agency marketed the residences in “good faith” and “had communicated to all purchasers any information that had been provided to us.”
*Ashmore Industrial Estate is a key urban redevelopment project for the City of Sydney. The estate spans 13 hectares, on what was once swampland with a high water table.
The land was occupied by manufacturing company Metters for about seven decades until the 1970s, the company best known for its famous “Kooka Stove”.
The industrial site was also home to two steelworks which produced components for the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
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Carrie Fellner is an investigative reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.
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