Tuesday, 22 Oct 2019 02:14:12 PM

Sydney Opal Tower residents allowed to return despite strata opposition

(Builder says tower ‘safe to occupy’ but strata urges residents to stay away until two more reports completed)

Residents of Sydney’s Opal Tower will be allowed to return home this weekend but the building’s own strata committee is warning them not to.

The stoush between the tower’s builder and its strata committee has emerged as residents wait on the result of a New South Wales government report that hasn’t yet been released.

The builder, Icon, has given “the overwhelming majority of residents” the all-clear to move back, if they wish, starting on Friday evening.

But they are being directly opposed by the strata committee, who told residents not to return until more safety reviews were completed, and criticised the builder for “placing pressure on residents to return”.

Two reports, commissioned by Icon, have declared the building safe. But a report by the NSW government and one commissioned by the body corporate itself remained either secret or incomplete on Friday.

On 4 January, the planning minister, Anthony Roberts, told media he believed “reoccupying the building should wait for the independent investigation’s initial report”, and hoped it would be released this week. On Friday, that report had still not been released.

A spokesman for Roberts said the minister would receive an “interim report” on Friday afternoon, and would make it public “within days”.

The NSW government’s report is being prepared by two professors of engineering, and the body corporate report is being conducted by engineering firm Cardno.

The two already-completed reports were prepared by engineering firms WSP and Rincovitch Partners.

On Friday, an email from the strata committee, obtained by Guardian Australia, told residents to wait for all four reports to be completed.

“The strata committee has requested the builder not to place any pressure on the residents to return,” it said. “Your safety is our utmost priority. As such we urge residents NOT to agree to reoccupy the building until the [four reports] are satisfied.

“Residents should err on the side of caution. It is important to ensure that residents do not take any unnecessary risks.”

But a spokeswoman for Icon defended the decision to let residents back in.

“We’d had two engineering firms declare that the building is safe for reoccupation,” she said.

“We know there are a number of residents who are desperate to get home and we want to facilitate that as quickly as possible. It is entirely up to the residents whether they want to move in or not. Our view and the view of the engineers is that the building is safe to occupy.”

 

Roberts has previously said any decision to move back was ultimately one for the builder and residents. The state government has no power to stop residents moving back in.

A spokesman for Cardno said the firm could not comment on when its report would be released.

But Icon said residents could reoccupy the building, even without the government report.

“We currently have confirmation from the design engineer, WSP, and third-party engineer, Rincovitch Partners, that the building is safe to occupy following completion of the stabilisation works, which are due for completion Friday evening,” the spokeswoman said.

 

“While we would welcome the department’s [report], the confirmation regarding the suitability of the structure lives with the engineers engaged to undertake that work.”

Opal Tower in Sydney’s Olympic Park developed a dramatic crack on Christmas Eve, and was then evacuated a second time on 27 December, to allow repair works to be conducted.

While many residents will be allowed in this weekend, 50 of the building’s 390 apartments will remain unfit for habitation for up to six weeks.

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