11 May 2006

Narrabundah caravan park residents getting the boot?

| johnboy
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The ABC, via Yahoo, have a story about hard times for the residents of the Narrabundah long-stay caravan park in the ACT.

The park was sold by the charity, Koomari, to a private company earlier this year.

Resident Judy Mcdowell says despite the land being leased by residents, they are being forced out without explanation and with no alternative for relocation

Anyone know more?

UPDATE: Jacqui Burke is calling for the Minister to develop a contingency plan for where these people go.

FURTHER UPDATE: The ABC has a snapshot of dismayed reaction from our elected leaders.

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Oh, and whichever option is chosen, send the bill to Kate.



One wonders at the organisational and management skills of a charity which “had not made money while running the park”, whilst collecting a conservative $1.5 million in site fees.

Which claims to have spent $200,000 on upgrading the electrical system (as directed by the relevant authority) and roads, when residents paid for their own electrical upgrades, and the roads have had minimal work done in the last five years.
Which had virtually no overheads in running the place, and got it for a dollar in the first place.

An organisation which exists to cater to people with physical and intellectual impairments, often accompanied by difficult and challenging behaviours, but had found the “park community …difficult to deal with.” All quotes from Koomarri president Mr John Mackay in todays Canberra Times.

Hope those entrusted to the care of Koomarri have better luck than we did.

All of which is totally irrelevant to the fact that if this park is closed, those who are able to remove their dwellings will face costs between $2,000 and $10,000 to do so, if indeed they have anywhere to relocate them to. Others will have no option but to demolish (that costs money too) and throw themselves on the mercy of the wonderfully robust ACT housing market (sic), private or government, if they are able to manage cost increases in the vicinity of 400%.

I loved the juxtaposition of two stories on ACA the other night, one on the Longstay park which spoke to the sense of community and caring here, the safety of the residents, and the ability of pretty much everyone to get on. And the other on the failed Gordon housing estate in Dubbo which is to be demolished due to ongoing violence and vandalism.

Maybe the Act government could relocate us all to Dubbo, and we’ll look after the houses there, and the Gordon residents could come down here and demolish the park for free. Wins all round! (sic)


Ah yes how very far sighted of Smyte et al, making sure things were in place for a whole 5 years. Who ever would have thought that something could have happened after that? I’m shocked.

At least if they build apartments, there will be a veritable smorgasboard of beds that the local ladies could utilise. Maybe Koomari shold have thought of that….?

The ACT Large Business Award winner was a partnership between ActewAGL and the non-profit organisation Koomari, which supports people with disabilities.

I thought running business and employing people with disabilities was part of their game. Hence an established caravan park, no money owing, so no interest bill is a great opportunity to do just that ….

I blame Koomari, if they are that desperate for a fast buck, there must be something else to the story.

boomacat – you need to follow the debate more closely. The ‘sale’ from govt to Koomarri was conditional and a clause was inserted that the site had to be maintained and operated as a caravan park, so the govt ensured the sale would proceed subject to the tenure of the residents being upheld.

It seems once Koomarri was released of its obligations to the 5 year sunset clause, it sort to sell the site, primarily and obviously due to the point that running a caravan park was not a key focus of its operations.

You are reacting in a disingenuous way in your reflection on the history of this sad saga. As has been pointed out previously, concentrate on how the residents can be successfully re-located elsewhere as the commercial decisions now undertaken by the current owner will not and most likely cannot, under law, be put to a halt.

Lets hope new protective measures will be in place (soon) to protect the rights of others who live in parks catering for long-stay residents.

You can’t blame the company that purchased the property – they’re a commercial enterprise that’s designed to make profit in the interests of their shareholders. They’re not a charitable organisation.

The fault clearly lies with Brendan Smyte and the then Liberal Govt, (includ now Senator Gary Humphries) for passing the title to the property unconditionally. This is who the residents of that Caravan Park should be angry with. Perhaps if Mr Corbell et al had done something before the sale, as Dr Foskey suggested, the problem could have been prevented.


You have laid out the whole facts of the matter succinctly, good on you and Deb for standing up for the battlers from the start. Narrabundah Longstay residents must put aside their differences and unite to form a negotiating committee to see the Attorney General and talk to Paul Green, the new owner. A united community voice is absolutely essential, as we in lower Narrabundah have discovered in our battle over the Hungarian Club. A stable tenancy agreement, suitable to both sides, must be negotiated.
As I mentioned previously, residents in other caravan parks in the ACT are watching nervously.
The spectre of the bulldozers moving in and destroying these people’s homes is too horrid to imagine in a civilized society.

Sequence of events

In 1999 The lease for the Narrabundah Long Stay Caravan Park was tranferred from the Commonwealth Government to the ACT Housing Commission.

in July 2000 the ACT Government – under present Liberal Opposition Leader Brendan Smyth – gave the park to Koomarri Inc. for nothing. There was a prohibition on the lease preventing the lessee from applying to vary the permitted use for five years from the transfer of ownership to Koomari.

The first Stanhope Labor Government was elected in October 2001.

Koomarri ran the Caravan Park at a profit for the next five years.

In February 2006 (ie: 5 1/2 years later) Koomarri advertised for expressions of interest to purchase the Narrabundah property.

Dr Foskey asked the ACT Planning Minister Simon Corbell to change the zoning for this block of land so that no-one planning to evict the residents and develop the property would be interested in buying it. He took the view that such a response wasn’t necessary, although he said he would urge Koomarri to sell the Park to someone wanting to take it on as a going concern.

28 April 2006 – contracts were exchanged with Dytin Pty Ltd. This was the highest bidder.
According to Koomarri president John Mackay, that is what you do with any asset.

The business running the next door “Sundowner” motor village also expressed an interest in purchasing the property (it would seem with the intent to continue to run it as is) but was not successful.

The Director and Secretary listed for Dytin Pty Ltd is Paul Green, of Meyer Vandenberg Lawyers

Tuesday night (secretly) letters were delivered to all occupants advising them that their occupancy agreements would not be renewed when they expired (in August or November, depending on their occupancy agreement).

Affordable housing in Canberra

there is no alternative sites for the 100 cabins and vans on site at the Narrabundah Long Stay Caravan Park. The residents have committed a lot of money to their homes and gardens, a large proportion of them live on low incomes.


While I do feel for the people living at Sundowner Village, I expect that they knew full well they would be at the mercy of the oweners of this parcel of land, much akin to evey other caravan owner in the country.

Sorry, but you all made a bet, it worked for a while but the odds changed in this race, and unfortuneatl you lost out.

Indi and Roland,

Wasn’t Koomarri given the land at about the same time they had to close a few of their businesses that catered for the employment of our mentally and physically handicapped brothers and sisters with a view that eventually they would base some of their services out there?

It appears to me that the ‘blame’ for this decision ought lie fair and square upon the directors of koomarri who changed their view as to how they want to run their given business?

If this was the case, and their core clients are being looked after in the present with an eye to the future, then I for one, do not see a problem with this.

Running a charity that caters for high needs clients (mentally and phaysically handicapped) is not a cheap thing to do. Selling off this land was probably a far better thing to do in their mind than start cutting much needed services to this sector.

Not bad Indi – I’ll go with that.

Koomari has probably made a decision based on dollas for good reason. They could either keep the park operatingfor a loss of X amount per day – or that money could be used assisting Y number of people. As long as the Y was a greater number of people than those residing in the caravan park it’s still a charitable decision.

I don’t like the idea that someone can be uprooted and told to bugger off from there home, but don’t blame this on Koomari. It’s a question of eithics that needs to be asked of the new buyer and Seven Storey Simon.

Roland GRNS – you didn’t finish your sentence…can it be assumed that the park was passed onto Koomarri to be operated and remain (in some form) a caravan park.

What’s the land use and can the new owner change that use under current law? I’d be more worried about the current situation ie. residents being displaced, who’s going to be in a position to help them (maybe Housing dept) and just how the new owner believes, under direction of law, that the ‘use’ of that site can change its use for other purposes.

It seems that Koomarri made a commercial decision to relieve itself of the property as it doesn’t seem like a part of core business. Now the new owner is pursuing a new agenda you would hope is perfectly legal, but doesn’t necessarily reflect community standards/ethics/morals blah blah…it’s a terrible place the real world, and sadly Canberra doesn’t get enough exposure to it.

Mr evil’s comment is of course both wrong and malicious.

Mrs Burke’s call for action is the first comment from any Liberal member on this issue.

That is because it was Brendan Smyth (when Minister for Housing under Kate Carnell) who gave the park to Koomarri.

To be fair, how would a charity like Koomari have ever run a caravan park? If I was given a caravan park as a gift, I’d flog it off too: bugger the hassle of having to look after a bunch of tenants who probably complain all the time, kill each other in fights over crappy beer steins and generally trash the place.

I now regret giving to the appeal when the Koomari building was burnt down.

Another so-called charitable organisation that is now off my list of organisations I will support in the future.

Getting off the track here, but my suspicion is that olive farms are a huge tax dodge as growers are eligible for primary producer tax benefits, while the olive trees just grow themselves. So little maintenance needs. No irrigation necessary. Harvesting is a hassle but expensive machinery is also claimable. It also takes away small grazing areas, and bespoils our views with rows of stumpy and parched olive trees. YUK

I heard the guy who bought it is the Olive grove guy at the bottom of Hindmarsh, as he backs on to the Longstay.
But I also heard that unless he gets a lease change, he’s gotta have a caravan park there for another 50 years or so.
Last thing we need is more goddam ugly olive trees. Look out for a worldwide glut of olive oil.

The new owner, a commercial & property lawyer, has dealt the residents of Narrabundah Longstay Caravan Park a cruel blow. The land usage is for a caravan park and if he wants to build flats on the over 9-hectare site he must apply to ACTPA for a change of land use. Simon could not possibly let this go ahead! Where is the Housing Affordability Taskforce? This must be their baby and the residents’ stability of tenure. Other caravan park residents in Canberra must be feeling nervous. Is the ALP going to stand up for the battlers or leave it to Deb Foskey who has supported them since the sale was first mooted?
The sale was a great windfall for Koomarri (given to them by the Libs for $1) and their role in this affair raises questions about their management of fiduciary duty. They could have sold the site to the Sundowner for less and at least they knew it would be well managed.
Why are we lacking residents rights?

Definately not a tenancy agreement and unable to be challenged under the relevant tenancy legislation.

I’d say the Housing Minister needed this like a hole in the head! Looks like the ‘state’ will be picking up the pieces…pity though, they don’t have enough properties to cope with an influx such as this one will recreate.

Send em to Queanbeyan!

barking toad1:37 pm 10 May 06

just pull up stumps and move to that grassy area in front of old parliament house – or is that only reserved for some of the community?

I’m not even sure it comes under tenancy
they can own their caravan, but they only lease the use of the land

Welcome to the dark side of tenancy agreements.

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