Sabtu, 10 Maret 2012

No more Tribunal at Parramatta

At the end of this month, the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal's Parramatta registry and hearing rooms will close.

From April, just about all those parts of western Sydney currently served by the Parramatta registry will be served by either the City registry or the Penrith registry. And that's where your hearings will be conducted too: the City or Penrith.

The closure is about reducing the cost of the Tribunal, and we understand that the Tribunal took no joy in making the decision. Still, it's a really bad move. For the Tribunal to be absent from the demographic centre of Sydney – a centre that has its own Justice Precinct – makes little sense.

The basic objective of the Tribunal is access to justice (such as it is under residential tenancies law). Tenants advocates will tell you that its not always easy to get tenants to assert their legal rights by applying to the Tribunal, or to defend their interests by responding to their landlords' proceedings. It's going to get harder in western Sydney.

Brown Couch correspondent and public transport enthusiast, Leo, got together with our colleagues at the Western Sydney Tenants Service and pored over his timetables to see what the effect of the Parramatta closure would be on typical trips to a Tribunal hearing.


Here's a few examples of what they found:
  • If you're in Merrylands, you might have expected to spend a total of 36 minutes on the bus to and from Parramatta; now you'll be on the bus to the City for an hour and a half all up.
  • If you're in Carlingford, you would have faced a total of one hour on the bus; now you're going to the City, it's two connecting trains each way, and total time just under two hours.
  • If you're in Greystanes, you'd have spent just under one and a half hours on the bus to Parramatta and back; now you're going to Penrith, it will take two and a quarter hours all up, on two buses and a train each leg.
  • If you're in Northmead, you could have gotten to Parramatta and back in 50 minutes on the bus; to get to Penrith and back, expect it to take just under two and a half hours, with a bus and a train each leg.
The extra time and complexity of getting to the Tribunal will make it a lot easier for tenants to say why bother.

Which may make things easier for landlords and agents... except that they'll still have to go to the Tribunal for their applications. And the extra time taken getting into the City or Penrith will cost them... costs that they'll try to recover from tenants, in higher rents, or skimping on repairs, or both.

So as a cost-saving measure, it may work for the Tribunal, but not the community generally.

The Tribunal has made its decision; hopefully the Premier (and Minister for Western Sydney) Barry O'Farrell will see that tenants, landlords and other users of the Tribunal need it to have a presence in Parramatta, and that some hearing rooms must be found in the Justice Precinct there.