Essential services including electricity, gas, water and sewerage have been cut off to residents at a South Stradbroke Island resort north of the Gold Coast, amid a long-running dispute over allegedly unpaid body corporate fees.
- Residents have been involved in a legal dispute with service providers over claims that millions of dollars are owed
- The service provider says it regrets the situation and has called for state government intervention
- The resort’s director of services says residents are the “innocent victims” of a dispute between body corporates
Couran Cove Island Resort is a mixture of holiday homes and permanent residences, whose owners are obliged to pay body corporate levies to access electricity, sewerage, gas and water services.
But some residents have been involved in a legal dispute with service providers over claims that millions of dollars are owed.
According to the service provider, 120 of the island’s 260 properties had their electricity suspended in February.
Couran Cove director of services Simon Napoli said further residents’ services were restricted as of 4:30pm Monday.
“The company simply does not have any further capacity to make interim payments on behalf of the bodies corporate who are failing to pay for their services,” he said.
He said while many residents had paid their body corporate levies, the funds had not been passed on to pay for services.
“This has caused significant body corporate debts to accrue, with over $25 million outstanding to the operator,” Mr Napoli said.
Resident Sharon Campione said her property lost power eight weeks ago and she had now lost access to the marina.
Signage seen by the ABC tells residents their vessels will be towed away if they are not removed.
“[It’s] very stressful,” Ms Campione said.
“I’ve got medical appointments. I’m not well, so we don’t even know if we’re going to get our boats out to attend these medical appointments.
“I’m not the only one obviously that’s sick on the island. We’re retirees. What happens if we need an ambulance?”
Ms Campione said she does not have anywhere else to live but has received support from the Red Cross, including for water supplies.
“We’re all peaceful. We’re not going to fight them [service providers]. It’s not worth lowering ourselves,” she said.
Resident Geoff Byers said he has just been “waiting for power to go off”.
“We, as owners, we pay every cent that we’re asked to pay,” he said.
“Someone should get involved and do a proper audit and find out what’s going on over here.
“It shouldn’t be happening in a country like Australia.”
Meeting planned with state government
Mr Napoli said the resort infrastructure operator had taken up an offer from the Queensland government to request an urgent meeting to discuss a solution.
“The request to meet with Mr [Queensland Deputy Premier Steven] Miles follows a face-to-face meeting last month with the Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman and her staff,” he said.
“We do, however, note — and welcome — the “sensible approach” by the Marine Apartments Body Corporate to take positive steps towards raising the funds to repay their debt to the Couran Cove Community Body Corporate,” he said.
“That decision still has to be put to an annual general meeting for approval from all owners, which we hope will be called as soon as possible.”
Residents are ‘innocent victims’
Mr Napoli said residents were “the innocent victims” of an “unnecessary war” between various body corporates.
He said the state government should intervene and “enforce a situation of independent management”.
“We firmly believe an independent manager should be engaged to deal with all the complex issues, without emotion, and with their professional skills provide practical solutions to resolve this dire situation,” Mr Napoli said.
A state government spokesperson says the situation is “the result of private disputes that are currently before the courts”.
“The government has funded the delivery of thousands of litres of water and has been in contact with Gold Coast council about bulk water delivery,” the spokesperson said.
“We are continuing to work with residents and to offer support, including with housing assistance, referrals for mental health services, financial counselling, legal aid, and other services.
“While this complex legal dispute plays out, relevant departments will continue to monitor the situation and will respond as required.”
Gold Coast police Chief Superintendent Craig Hanlon said officers were on stand-by.
“[It] is quite complex to identify who owns property out of there,” he said.
“We’ll go over if need be and if we need to take other support service, other government departments, we’ll do that.”