Monthly Archives: September 2011

Workplace health and safety disharmony is all we have so far

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The push for identical work place health and safety laws across all states and territories is dubbed the ‘harmonization’ process. By all reports in the weekend press, as the target for commencement of 1 Jan 2012 approaches, it is anything the campaign is anything but living up to its name.

The latest skirmish is over the Hargreaves / Telstra case in June 2011. A Brisbane woman working at home for Telstra slipped twice – once when wearing socks and getting cough medicine from her fridge and secondly when locking her front door. Because she was engaged in working from home – her employer was held liable for failing to provide a safe workplace.

I am a great fan of national based laws and responsible laws for workplace health and safety. However, if there were a State or Territory in this country that has the brains to say this latest development in home base worker safety is absolute nonsense and no such outcome will happen on our turf, you would have to move there and to hell with harmonization of laws.

Risk should rest with the party best able to manage that risk. In this case that has got to be the home worker. Can employers realistically provide for a persons safety in their own home?

How does this translate then to our strata communities? If a home workers home becomes a work place when they work from home, is the common property they traverse getting to and from their unit or the car to go out on a work call, a work place too? On the present authorities you would have to think so. Stay tuned for more outrageous developments in this saga.

Posted by Michael Teys

To read about the Hargreaves / Telstra case go to:

A good word about politicians

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It’s not often today you can find anything good to say about politicians, of any variety, let alone something good to say about all three of the main parties, but that’s exactly what I find myself able to do this week.

The ACT Legislature will debate later this week the Unit Titles (Management) Bill 2011, and on behalf of the Owners Corporation Network ACT I have been close to the process. Last week, with the debate looming, I did my last round of calls on all three parties, the ALP, the Libs and the Greens.

Throughout the entire process I have been impressed with the tempered tone of the debate and public consultation, from all quarters. Having been involved in the bun fights of Queensland politics on strata issues in the 1990’s, I had come to think that rational bi (if not, tri)- partisan outcomes were impossible in this emotive area.

The difference I think came down to this – ACT does not have long term caretaking and letting contracts (although it has the power for these to be granted with the approval of the dispute resolution tribunal). Accordingly there is less heat in the market between unit owners and the development and management community. NSW and Victorian strata law reform, where long-term developer imposed contracts are rare are similarly without the Queensland angst.

This point is important but it ought not to belittle the efforts of all involved in this ACT round of reform. All political parties have come at the debate with good community outcomes foremost in their mind. The territorians have considered what works and what doesn’t elsewhere, unlike for example Victoria in its 2006 reforms, and adopted best legislative practice. In the cutting edge area of retrofitting sustainability infrastructure, the ACT has lifted the bar for all other state and territory based laws and adopted a new type of approach to cutting through barriers to this type of initiative arising from typical strata laws. Finally, issues arising from consultation that have not had the benefit of the right amount of community consultation have been flagged for the future.

It has been a textbook legislative performance – if only we could get those down the road in the big house to work this way.

Posted by Michael Teys

From thinking to talking to taking action

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Each two years a couple of hundred strataphiles gather on the Gold Coast at the invitation of Griffith University to discuss strata and community title in the 21st century. We so gathered last week.

The conference is interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, academics rather than strata industry bodies convene it. The mix of people and papers is therefore broader, and I think this a good thing. Secondly, the academic influence encourages original thinking.

This conference was no exception. The stand out paper was by Cathy Sherry of the University of New South Wales on the extent of our enlarging strata footprint. She drew parallels between the ancient form of title to land under Barons and Serfs in medieval times and the various diverse interests we are creating today in flat land subdivision. She warns that it took 7 centuries to undo ancient land titling systems that had strangulated land use by creating too many competing interests and with flat land subdivision we may today be going backwards. Cathy argued suburban freehold subdivision without common held land under the care of a local government rather than a country association was a better way.

A New Zealand academic independently bought the role of local government into focus as well and suggested that there is a political battle going on in private urban governance – local associations v community associations. Local governments love to collect rates from community residents but put the burden of service providing back on the community association so in effect residents pay twice. If we have created the forth level of government with community associations, have we created the fourth system of taxation, and if so are we getting real value for the extra cost?

The CEO of Sanctuary Cove, one of the largest gated communities in Australia, outlined her resident’s efforts to get some relief from doubling rating. The conference organizer refereed us to 2005 paper where this issue was flagged.

There were many other topics debated over the three-day event but this topic alone bought into sharp focus for me that academics think differently. Their role is to think deeply about issues and bring them to our attention. Our role is to do something about them. At least for the residents of Sanctuary Cove and communities like them we may be dragging the chain.

Strata Managers Observed

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In last week’s StrataSpace newsletter, we published a story about City Futures ‘Survey of Strata Managing Agents; A Report on the findings of a Survey of Strata Managing Agents in NSW’.

Having read the survey in detail I thought I would offer a brief summary of the key points:

  • 20% of strata a managers’ time is spent on preparation and attendance at AGMs and EGMs (not including budgeting which they estimate as a further 7% of their time);
  • In answer to the question, ‘what type of training would you like to see and why?’ the top response was ‘case law, interpretation of legislation and legislation changes’. Equal second was ‘mediation, negotiating skills and conflict resolution’;
  • The most common way of accessing help in managing stress, is to ask a colleague at their workplace;
  • The most common perceived area of dispute between strata managers and their clients (by a significant margin) was ‘conflicting expectations of the role of the manager and the owners’; and
  • Noise, parking and by-laws are the three most common areas of disputes.

Experience tells us that none of the above should come as any surprise to our readers. From our perspective, it is heartening to see that the key points being raised are those we are covering in our offerings in StrataSpace and our regional seminars and that we are on target with strata community needs.                        


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