Sunday, May 18, 2014

Oh it's rum days in good old Sydney town ...

(Above: you've read the book, now play the game)

This being a meditative Sunday, but with the pond tired of all the religious fundamentalists in the world and their ongoing stupidity - yes that can include Islamic fundamentalists, angry Sydney Anglicans, and Geoff 'tummy eggs' Shaw if you like - the pond was moved to contemplate corruption.

It's not peculiarly a Sydney vice, though Sydney has been going hard at it since the days of the Rum rebellion.

But this story caught the pond's eye, courtesy of the mob who put out City Hub on the mean streets of Sydney.

Perhaps you know of other local equivalents - the pond once consorted with a South Australian minister who knew where all the freeways were going to be built, and lordy lordy, was he filthy rich. These days it'd be called insider trading, but never mind, a certain Marrickville matter resonated with the pond because we have to endure the wretched council.

Whistleblower wins: Marrickville councillor's suspension overturned ran the headline.

So what was the suspension for?

The suspension was issued by the NSW Division of Local Government after Cr Phillips refused to apologise for informing local residents about a $5 million offer made to council by the property development company Meriton. 
The offer, part of a proposed Voluntary Planning Agreement, was made by Meriton in return for Marrickville council agreeing to double the height allowances for the Lewisham Towers development in late 2012. 

Uh huh. Well the pond has no dog in the Lewisham Towers fight, and no doubt there's arguments to be had about how to pack even more rats into good old Sydney town.

But however you look, offering cash in the paw to change the rules seemed naked and overt, even by current Sydney standards.

Now Meriton is notorious in Sydney. Its cockroach cranes litter the skyline, and yet it leaves behind it shoddy work of the worst kind.

Google up Meriton and Harry Triguboff and the Labor party and the Liberal party and shoddy building standards and you won't run short of hits:

It is, in Harry Triguboff's own words, ''the jewel in the Meriton crown''. But World Square - with Meriton's glittering skyscraper World Tower at its heart - is in turmoil. 
Locks have been changed, security guards installed and Meriton and its investors are trading blows via their lawyers. 
The owners' corporation of the World Tower apartments is accusing Meriton of neglect and breach of contract over building defects and maintenance issues worth more than $1 million. 
But, in turn, the owners' corporation faces allegations that it is wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars in strata levies in fighting the company. 
Through official documents, the secretary of the owners' corporation, King Chen, says Mr Triguboff's company has turned a blind eye, not only to maintenance problems but to dangerous overcrowding, with many apartments filled with sub-divided bedrooms and overseas students. 
Strata minutes accuse the company of helping to fuel the problem by issuing 9500 swipe cards to the building without authority between 2004 and 2011. (There are 236 residential units in the tower.) 
They even say Meriton employees have misappropriated some of the $100 to $150 deposits paid on each card. 
A Herald investigation has discovered that Meriton has been served with at least 15 official breach notices and formal complaints in the past two years. Meriton awarded itself the caretaker contract - worth $2.13 million a year - for 10 years after it completed the development in 2004. 
The breach claims spell out flooding problems caused by shoddy work, malfunctioning lifts that frequently trapped residents and defective swipe-card systems that locked residents out of the building. An independent review commissioned by the owners' corporation identified more than $1 million in serious defects in the construction of the building. ''Many essential fire safety systems have been found to be faulty and in a state of neglect … consequently City of Sydney council is carrying out investigations to the entire World Tower,'' strata documents say. (that here, and so on and so on)

Back in 2003, in this pdf of parliamentary proceedings, here, it was recorded that Meriton donated $294,500 to the state Labor Party (along with a bunch of other developer donors on the list).

Since then there's been all sorts of talk about cleaning up the NSW parliament and developers and donations and so on and so forth ...

But what happened to the 'cash in the paw' Marrickville matter?

Well the argie bargie that followed was equally indecent:

 Cr Phillips had originally argued that council’s code of conduct requires honestly and that if he had apologised, it would have been dishonest. 
However, Justice Haylen did not agree with this argument and instead found that the information Cr Phillips released was not confidential. 
 Prior to the suspension, an independent reviewer found that by revealing information from a confidential business paper, Cr Phillips had breached the code of conduct. 
 But, Cr Phillips claimed the information had first been delivered at an earlier oral briefing. “What Justice Haylen is saying is basically that you can’t retrospectively make things confidential if they are already in the public domain,” explained Cr Phillips. “Council’s reasoning was basically that Meriton asked it to be confidential. 
Meriton are a private interest and they might want confidentiality … but council has to look at it from the public point of view.”

Uh huh. Let's keep it all under wraps, and if it escapes into the public arena, let's persecute the councillor that made it known.

... independent councillor Victor Macri, who was mayor of Marrickville at the time Cr Phillips disclosed information about the offer, thinks the tribunal’s decision is “appalling”. 
 “Max clearly did the wrong thing and they saw differently. Max blatantly got papers marked as confidential and gave them to the media,” Cr Macri argued. Cr Macri explained that the offer made by Meriton was not a firm commitment, and that, as a result, the appropriate time to consult the public would have come once council had made a decision about the offer. 
 “It was a proposal that had to be nuanced and massaged. [It] was an offer. We had to look at it and say we can accept this, or no, we can’t accept this. So, how can you go to the media and say that [before council had made a decision]?” 

Uh huh.

Roll that one around on your Sydney tongue. It was a proposal that had to be "nuanced and massaged".

Quite possibly at one of the many Thai massage parlours that litter good old Sydney town, where there's often a happy ending to the massage.

Well that word "appalling" is handy, but the pond wouldn't apply it to the whistleblower, not when it could be used to describe Victor Macri.

You see Vic, no matter how you try to massage and nuance an offer of five cool millions to council to vary the rules, it doesn't look good.

Did Meriton offer 5 mill to vary the rules? Or not? If they did, how on earth could that be massaged and nuanced?

In fact, it looks bloody pathetic. Couldn't they at least have attempted to disguise it a little more by offering Marrickville council barrels of rum and a lifetime subscription to a Thai massage service?

So how did it end?

Recently, a competition between architectural firms for a new design for the Lewisham Towers development was won by Sydney-based firm PTW Architects, and Meriton is now their client.

Forget it Jake, it's Sydney town, and all that can be said and done and noted is what a disgrace Marrickville council is ...

(Below: watch out for your nose in good old Sydney town).

1 comment:

  1. This has nothing to do with the article here, but I just happened to chance on this site. Please remove that scary picture of the clown on the top left of the banner. It belongs deep in a self storage pod somewhere! *shiver!*


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