'We've Had Enough': Residents At Breaking Point After Life On 'Australia's Worst Street'

'Death trap' drops, dangerous, rubbish-heap 'common areas,' comically steep driveways, 'unbelievable' parking, and no one is taking responsibility.

What you need to know
  • Residents on Duranta Drive, Gowanbrae, in Melbourne's north west say housing development has them at their breaking point
  • Street parking, back garden and 'common areas' are raising serious safety and compliance concerns
  • Homeowners say council, builders and developers continue to blame each other
  • Council says it is happy to be a mediator, but responsibility lies elsewhere

Fed up residents have revealed how life has become intolerable on arguably one of Australia's worst-planned streets, as builders, developers and council continue to pass on the blame.

On Duranta Drive in Gowanbrae, in Melbourne's north west, many residents who eagerly bought off the plan were sorely disappointed when their homes became a reality.

Steep, narrow driveways scraped cars' undercarriages and made houses nearly inaccessible, forcing many to park on the street, which is now jam-packed with cars.

Tiny gardens squashed against a five metre high retaining wall, alleged to be a "death trap" due to its sheer drop from the street above, greeted them out the back.

Four vacant lots that can't be developed were strewn with rubbish and building materials, and deemed "common areas," thus the responsibility of homeowners. On one of the empty blocks, a steep concrete staircase with no handrails, meant to provide access to a street, actually leads to a fence.

"The first one goes to nowhere.  But council and the developer are washing their hands of them, and saying we have to maintain them," homeowner Debbie Tagell told Ten Eyewitness News.

"It's just crazy.  It's an eyesore.  The whole street looks derelict."

The "stairway to nowhere" on a vacant lot.

Homeowners John and Margaret Iramiyan agree.

"We're not sure what they are, but apparently they're our responsibility," Margaret said.

"And they were left in the state. We can't even access them to clean them."

The couple said they are very dangerous to climb on, with no hand rails, and a 20-30 metre drop from the top.

" I can't imagine any children or elderly people trying to climb them," John said.

"The grounds are unstable, there's grass everywhere, trees. It's a rubbish dump.  They decided it's apart of the body corporate, it's common grounds."

However Mayor of the city of Moreland, Councillor John Kavanagh, said council will take over the lots and the stairway maintenance, once a private surveyor issues an approval and it meets the standards of council.  He says that hasn't happened yet, because the stairways aren't yet complete.

"At the time of the final inspection, and at the time of the final occupancy certificate, and subject to council's inspection, then it will become council's responsibility," he said.

"At this point, it is not council's responsibility.  When the stairway is complete to the satisfaction of council, and when the surveyor issues an occupancy certificate, council will take control of it."

Out the back of a row of houses, the sloped land between the street and the garden retaining wall is fenced from the road, but not sectioned off between properties, and a gap  beneath the fence means small children could slip under and "fall to their deaths," according to an email residents say they received.

Residents are concerned over the safety of a steep drop from sloped verge into their back gardens.

"It's actually quite dangerous up there," Tagell said.

"If anyone, little kids, climbed over the fence and fell -- we've got it in writing, that they would fall to their death.  And apparently, it's our responsibility for that. We had an independent building inspector come out, and there's a gap underneath the black fencing up there, and he said even small kids could fall underneath and still fall over. It's a nightmare."

Homeowner Debbie Tagell says life in the development has been "a nightmare."

And in at least one case, a section of fence actually broke off and plummeted five metres down into a resident's garden, the Herald Sun reported.

If anyone had been out there at the time "it would have killed them," homeowner Paul Salloum told the publication.

Resident Elaine Mynard confirmed the fence is broken, and is now held together with cable ties.

"The fence is broken, the gate is broken, it's actually held together by cable ties and electrical tape," she said. "How do you stay safe up there?"

Meanwhile, due to parked cars, the road is too narrow for council to pick up rubbish with a normal truck, residents say they were told in an email. A smaller truck has to be sent, and frustrated home owners have to drag their bins across the street for collection.

Even so, they claim, rubbish is sometimes not collected because the trucks can't get to it.

A garbage truck fights for space on the narrow street.

"The truck couldn't get through, so they left the rubbish behind on many occasions," homeowner John Iramiyan said.

"They told us the solution is to take all our bins on the other side, it's easier for the collection, and they still don't collect it sometimes."

The steep driveways means residents are unable to park their cars in their garages, forcing them onto the street.

"Parking is unbelievable," Tagell said.

Steep driveways mean residents struggle to park their cars or access their garages.

"We can hardly fit a garbage truck...  fire trucks have been down here and actually knocked a side mirror off a tradie's van because it doesn't fit," she said.

Moreland Council refuses to step in, home owners said.

"The council is saying it's the developer's problem, the developers are saying it's council's problem, and now they're both saying it's our problem," Tagell said.

"It's just been a nightmare... we try to speak to council, we get nowhere. It's just passing the buck about different things."

Margaret Irmayin says living in the development, and trying to get the problems fixed has been "horrifying."

"The council passes it to the builder, the builder back to the council. Back and forth, back and forth," she said.

"We're just questioning how something like that could be passed on and approved for residents to move in, without taking any proper measures to ensure the people will be safe," John said.

Homeowners John and Margaret Irmayin say their experience has been "horrifying".

Councillor Kavanagh says he feels for property owners, but at the end of the day Council is not responsible for the problems with the development.

"Primarily the issue sits with the Victorian Building Authority, the private developer, the residents themselves, and the private building surveyor," he said.

"In this situation council is trying to act as a mediator. Obviously we're the closest level of government to the people as so they assume that council is available, and we try to be available, and we try to do our best to work with the parties to try to bring about a good resolution for the residents.

"We've contacted the Victorian Building Authority, we've looked at our planning enforcement. The key is, this is an issue for the Victorian Building Authority, and it's an issue between the developers and the residents, and in fact the private building surveyor," he said.

Despite all the problems, homes on the 34-property Bahl Homes development didn't come cheaply, with one selling for $790,000 last year.

In a statement, the contractor responsible for building the properties washed its hands of any blame.

"Bahl Homes was contracted to only build homes, by the developer who owned the land. We had no contract to finish common landscaping or modify the black fence at the rear of the properties," it said.

"We did what was required of us, as per the endorsed plans, and the work we completed was approved by the council before we finally left the site. All of the outstanding issues are not anything Bahl Homes can get involved with, as they are developer and council concerns.

"We are, however, assisting the council where possible and keeping the residents updated."

Town planning expert Bill Kusznirczuk said its obvious there's a "huge problem" on the site.

"You don't just leave land in a mess in a development of any kind for someone else to fix up at a later date," he said.

"The developers have a huge responsibility through their builder. Their builder needs to be registered, and if he's not he's in strife. The builder also needs to ensure with the developer there's a warranty insurance on this project. So if the insurance is there, that means you can rectify this problem.

"Councils should be going on site and conducting a complete audit of the buildings' non-compliance. They should be liaising with the Victorian Building Authority.

"Just because you bought off the plan doesn't mean you should have a substandard development," he said.