Residents at a caravan park in the Illawarra are sleeping soundly for the first time in five years after winning protection from an owner who was attempting to evict them.
- MP Paul Scully says the court’s decision represents a “very clear victory for the rights of residents”
- The Affiliated Residential Parks Residents Association says it sends a message to operators who think they can “push people around”
- A resident says solidarity and support from ARPRA saw the community through
The New South Wales Supreme Court has appointed an administrator to take over management of the Oasis Village at Windang, on the shores of picturesque Lake Illawarra.
For more than five years the residents have been fighting an attempt by the owner, S&Q Assets, to kick them out of their cabins and caravans.
“A lot of people here have breathed a really big sigh of relief and we can rest easy now,” resident Jan Hardy said.
For years the residents have raised concerns about the lack of maintenance and repeated eviction notices telling them they had 30 days to leave the site.
“Oh, we have hung together — we have stuck together and by sticking together and going forward with everything [the Affiliated Residential Park Residents Association — ARPRA] suggested we have won,” Ms Hardy said.
With ARPRA’s support residents challenged the eviction notices in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal before taking the matter to the Land and Environment Court and in 2022.
They then asked the NSW Commissioner for Fair Trading to investigate and called for an administrator to be appointed.
During the process Wollongong City Council refused to rezone the land for any other purpose than a land lease community.
ARPRA chief executive Gary Martin said the elderly residents needed protection.
“Everyone of those residents that lives at Oasis has a large chunk of assets involved in their home,” he said.
“People say it’s just a caravan park, but it is more than a caravan park — every home is someone’s castle.”
‘It’s the vibe, it’s the constitution’
On August 23 the Supreme Court made an order under section 164(1)(b) of the Residential (Land Lease) Communities Act 2013 appointing Kenneth Michael Whittington as an administrator of the Oasis Village.
On Tuesday Mr Martin and Wollongong MP Paul Scully, who had used parliament to call out the behaviour of the owner, travelled to Windang to inform the community of the result.
“This is a very clear victory for the rights of residents,” Mr Scully said.
“The residents have been pushed around and bullied for a long time — this will allow the residents to live their lives with a bit more piece of mind.”
Mr Martin said the order was the result of years of work in support of the residents.
“It gives them that safety, relief that they are not going to be terminated they are not going to be evicted,” Mr Martin said.
“It might be a cliché, but this case has reminded me of that famous Australian movie The Castle — you know, ‘It’s the vibe, it’s the constitution.’
“In this case it was very much the vibe that those people in this community stood shoulder to shoulder through the confusion and the fear of losing their homes.”
A win for residents across NSW?
There are 36,000 people in 480 caravan parks living in land lease communities around NSW and Mr Martin says the victory is a win to all of them.
“It sends a message to the entire industry, to any want-to-be operator or any current operator that thinks it can push people around, that you might be a corporation and you might think you have that power behind you,” he said.
“But when people stick together and rise up and their voice is heard and the law is behind them, they can get a satisfactory outcome.”
The administrator will work with the council and consultants to improve the village with a local real estate agency appointed to support the day-to-day operations of the park.
His role will continue until the court orders otherwise.