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By Madeleine Gray on March 2, 2017 in News

Mind your manors, Mirvac.

Mind your manors, Mirvac.

What gives a company the right to simply shut off a whole area’s power for eight hours? What gives them the right to do this not once, but again and again?

Apparently the answer is disturbingly simple: the law.

This is a disconcerting truth that has been learnt and re-learnt by residents of Ocean Street North in Bondi over the past three years. At present, there are three developments under construction in the surrounding area – the most well known of these being the Mirvac development, Moreton Manor (i.e. the old Benevolent Society premises). The others are a new nine-story building at number 21–23 Ocean Street, and a nine-story apartment block at 38 Ocean Street.

“We have had our power cut off three times within the past few months,” one Ocean Street North resident Kate Smith* said. “Each time, notice was only given via a letter in the mail a few days before the planned outage.”

Naturally, Ms. Smith was affronted by the presumption that a company could completely inconvenience a large area of residential housing without providing them any compensation, or even advanced warning in the form of something more than a brief note in the mail.

“As you can imagine, there are hundreds of people put out by doing this” she said. “People rely on their power for a number of reasons, i.e. parents of newborns or toddlers, the elderly, sick, and people who work from home (who lose a day or so worth of income), to mention a few.

“Also, food gets wasted in fridges, there have been faults with lifts, security systems, garage doors and a whole plethora of issues due to the power cuts.”

When Ms. Smith contacted Mirvac to complain about the power cuts affiliated with Moreton Manor, she was told that it was simply necessary to bring electricity to their development.

Undeterred, Ms. Smith called Ausgrid, which quickly pointed to the legality of its actions – a small disclaimer sits at the bottom of all power supply interruption notices from Ausgrid, saying: “Ausgrid is permitted to interrupt the supply of electricity in accordance with the applicable laws.”

When Ms. Smith contacted the electricity company doing the work, she was told that she had no hope in hell of putting an end to the disruptions now that the developers had moved in.

The Beast contacted Waverley Council for comment and were informed that: “Council is not aware specifically of this issue and we encourage residents to discuss directly with Ausgrid.”

On its website, Ausgrid justifies planned power interruptions.

“From time to time, we need to interrupt the power supply to safely carry out essential maintenance and upgrade work,” the website reads.

Evidently, what work is “necessary” remains ambiguous – could it simply be a coincidence that so much “necessary” work coincides with commercially funded developments, and that those who suffer are private owners and lessees?

One solution might be compensation for residents inconvenienced by planned power outages. At the very least, a more advanced notification system than “a notice in the mail at least four days before the outage” would be a good start.

*real name withheld