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.