Residential park residents campaign against changes to law

Retirees in residential parks (formerly called caravan parks) have launched a statewide campaign against a new state law that will change the way the parks are run.

There are about 34,000 people with the average age of 65 living in some 500 residential parks in NSW, including Blacktown.

Their park committees have started a petition and lobbied sympathetic MPs in the Lower and Upper Houses against the Residential Land Lease Communities Bill.

Blacktown residents committee spokeswoman Mary Preston of Gateway Lifestyle Residential Park at Stanhope Gardens said most of its 500 residents were opposed to many of the proposals.

She said the protection offered by the current Act had been replaced with a new one that tipped the balance of power to park owners.

‘‘They include capital gains profit sharing for park owners, restriction on additional occupants, hiring tradesmen and sub-let and privacy issues,’’ she said.

‘‘I am working with representatives from other parks in collecting and presenting petitions to Labor and Greens MPs and MLC in the Upper House including Fred Nile and the Shooters Party.

‘‘The Bill allowing park operators to share the capital gains in a mobile home sale, or a share of the home itself, instead of rent increases, has been included in our protest.’’

Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts last week introduced the Bill in Parliament, saying it would strike a better balance between home owners and operators.

‘‘Key reforms include clear rules of conduct for park operators and sanctions for those operators who fail to comply, mandatory education requirements for all new park operators and a community-based approach to dealing with increases in site fees,’’ he said.

Mr Roberts cut funding to the advocacy group the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association.

Its members have been the fiercest critic on the eve of parliamentary debate on the bill.

CPSA has run the Parks and Village Service for 17 years with $200,000 a year in NSW government funding.

Spokeswoman Julie Lee, who was shocked by the funding cut, said the Bill contained changes that would hit the financial security of residents who own their home but don’t own the land on which it sits.

Gateway Lifestyle Residential Park director Trent Ottawa said his company would not embrace the proposed introduction of residents and owners to share future sale proceeds of their homes in return for rent reductions.

‘‘But it may suit some people,’’ he said.

‘‘Providing the opportunity for these arrangements to be negotiated on an individual basis means that residents as a group are not disadvantaged.

‘‘We support legislative changes that include simplifying the process of land rental increases and dealing with dispute, rather than relying on tribunal hearings for an outcome.’’

Gary Martin, president of Affiliated Residential Parks Residents Association — which was granted $100,000 to conduct community consultation on the bill — praised it.

He said ARPRA members were unhappy about the capital gains sharing, but he was happy with changes made to the bill that meant the provision would not apply to current residents, unless they chose a new contract.

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