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Council Calls for More Control Over Development

By Duncan Horscroft on February 26, 2021 in News

Bondi Beach in the 1890’s, with the original 1887 stink pipe in the background and brush fencing to try and manage the unstable sand dunes. Photo: Hello Bondi

The Eastern Suburbs is in the midst of a development blitz and old family homes which once stood proud are being replaced with architecturally-designed monoliths.
Bondi Junction is now a mini-metropolis with high-rise buildings towering into the skyline – and there’s more to come.
But Waverley councillor Dominic Wy Kanak is concerned there could be more instances like Mascot Towers and Opal Tower due to the lack of control and supervision surrounding the building work.
Waverley and other councils no longer have control, due to the state planning law which has created a private certification system that excludes councils’ regulatory officers from the capacity to oversee standards.
And it’s not the big buildings that have come under the spotlight. The recent partial collapse of a home in Curlewis Street, Bondi highlighted the lack of supervision on the site as there was no effective support on the existing building prior to excavation.
There were also incidents on sites in nearby Lamrock Avenue and Gilgandra Road.
“I will be calling on Council in its forthcoming revision of the Local Environment Plan (LEP) to prohibit basement excavation in the sands of the Bondi Basin,” Cr Kanak said.
“There have been too many collapses of buildings adjacent to excavations.”
“There are no mandatory qualifications for certifiers or engineers (and) Council can only intervene at a site when safety issues are involved.”
“Prohibiting excavation in dangerous grounds is the only solution until certification is independent, preferably public, and there is a rigorous professional standards body which can hear complaints without the expense of legal action.”
He said the NSW Government Public Accountability Committee inquiry into the regulation of building standards, quality and disputes had amended its terms of reference including case studies on Mascot Towers and Opal Tower.
There was a recommendation that the state government establish a Professional Engineers Registration Scheme for the building industry which resulted from community, local council and expert submissions to the committee about unregulated building practices.
The committee also recommended the state government speed up its response to the recommendations about refining the building and construction practices.
“Problems resulting from the house collapse in Curlewis Street may well have been avoided if the parliamentary committee’s safeguarding recommendations were in place sooner,” Cr Kanak said.
The land on which the Curlewis Street house stands is part of the original sand belt which ran from Bondi through to Rose Bay before the suburb had literally emerged from the sandhills. Most of the original houses on the sand belt have stood the test of time mainly due to the strict building practices Waverley Council had in place at the time of construction.
“The Curlewis Street location is also on the border of the Bondi-Rose Bay Sandbody identified in the 2009 Waverley Aboriginal Heritage Study as having the potential to unearth significant artefacts and even remains, as Aboriginal burials have been found on nearby Royal Sydney Golf Course,” Cr Kanak said.