Unsightly Buildings

08 March 2016
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Mr SPEIRS ( Bright ) ( 15:15 ): There is nothing worse in our community than a graffiti clad building overgrown with weeds, windows broken, fences falling over, attracting antisocial behaviour and a sense of foreboding. These buildings, all too often on major traffic thoroughfares, blight our communities, reducing their visual amenity and undermining civic pride.

What we see in the existence of these buildings is the broken window theory, where disrepair becomes the norm, triggering further vandalism and antisocial behaviour; and the downward spiral continues. The broken window theory states that maintaining and monitoring urban environments to prevent small crimes helps to create an atmosphere of order and civic pride which is self-fulfilling, lifting the amenity of communities, maintaining property values and a sense of belonging.

In February 2016, I commenced a local campaign to clean up unsightly buildings in my electorate. I targeted three buildings that were frequently raised by residents as being in such a state that they degraded our community. These buildings include one on Brighton Road, which extends back along Gregory Street in Brighton. Here we find a wall which has been covered in graffiti for several years, with additional graffiti spilling onto neighbouring private residential buildings and fences.

Further up Brighton Road at the corner of Stephenson Avenue is the old Mobil service station, which is by far the worst looking building in my electorate. The service station, the victim of a strategic commercial closure by a major South Australian private company a number of years ago, is in a state of extreme disrepair. It is covered with graffiti, overgrown by weeds, and has become a long-term parking lot for cars with 'for sale' signs on them. It sits in the midst of a beautiful coastal community and significantly damages the amenity of the surrounding area.

Graffiti and vandalism at this site have spread again into neighbouring private residential streets, as this sort of behaviour is normalised due to the former Mobil service station site. Moving further north, on Oaklands Road at Somerton Park, we find 64 Oaklands Road, a building owned by the Rawlings family, a forlorn looking site covered in graffiti tags, with broken windows and a generally unloved look.

As part of my campaign to fix up these buildings, I wrote to the City of Holdfast Bay seeking their partnership on this matter. The council in turn wrote to the building owners seeking urgent redress of these sites. I am delighted to report to the house today that the owners of the Gregory Street site have taken rapid action to fix up their property, and for the first time in many years the wall at the rear of the building is no longer a collection of graffiti tags but is in fact a bare wall. In many ways, this leaves a blank canvas for future vandalism, which is quite off-putting for some building owners to tackle, but equally it is important that building owners persevere with keeping buildings graffiti free, as I strongly believe that private owners have a civic responsibility to keep their buildings in a decent state.

Action has been less forthcoming at the Mobil service station and the Oaklands Road sites, but I hope the owners of both of these buildings rise to their civic responsibility and take action to clean up these buildings. I would like to thank South Brighton Neighbourhood Watch, led ably by community stalwart John Wallace, for joining me in this campaign, particularly in relation to the Gregory Street site at Brighton, which I know has been an issue for many members of the neighbourhood watch group for some time.

I have also been encouraged by the Marino Residents Association for joining me in this fight, and thank you to Des DeCean for his involvement in this. I am determined to continue this fight in the coming months, and will ensure that property owners and the council work with me to make these buildings more amenable for the community.

In particular, the Mobil service station on the corner of Stephenson Avenue is certainly a site that needs dramatic intervention. I will be looking at legislation that the council has and, if need be, will propose legislative amendments to this house to give councils the power to clean up these unsightly buildings and approach property owners for recompense.

Extracted from Hansard