By Michael Hitch
The Bower Reuse and Repair Centre in Marrickville has reopened its doors after being locked out by the Addison Road Community Centre Organisation (ARCCO) due to an alleged breach of the conditions of its lease.
Staff, customers and supporters of The Bower rejoiced on Sunday 2 December after negotiating an agreement with ARCCO, allowing them to reopen their Marrickville store for business and volunteering.
Craig Reucassel from ABC’s War on Waste and Costa Georgiadis from ABC’s Gardening Australia spoke at the re-opening to show their support for the Bower’s focus on environmental sustainability and community action.
Mr Reucassel said that Bower had received tremendous praise from fans of The War on Waste and that Bower was providing a legitimate solution to Australia’s growing waste problem.
“Not only does it fix things, it also teaches people to fix things. There needs to be more Bower’s not less,” he said.
“It’s interesting, after doing The War on Waste the most common thing that people said to me was ‘oh I’m so glad you made me aware of the Bower’” and people came back here months later and kept coming back.
“The Bower is very much ahead of its time, we’re now starting to look at having to deal with our own waste and use the resources to do that — that’s where everything’s starting to go. Even the government is starting to talk about that. Bower has been way ahead of the curve. Having this place close down would be such a massive waste.”
Mr Reucassel also briefly addressed the dispute between Bower and ARCCO, saying that the methods used to issue the lockout were dubious and deceptive.
“If you’re coming out here and saying you want to close this thing down because we’re going to do this massive brilliant thing, go for it. Tell me that. But don’t give me some dodgy bullshit,” he said.
On Friday ARCCO was informed by the NSW Government that it is in breach of its head lease due to illegal structures erected at Hut 34. The Bower Group is the responsible tenant. As a result, other businesses and artists that operate out of ARCCO could be in jeopardy if the Addison Road Community Centre falls out of public hands.
This breach, as well as other previous disputes regarding length of the leasing conditions and increasing rental prices resulted in the eviction of Bower on 19 November.
For now ARCCO has negotiated with The Bower Group to allow them access to Hut 34. The celebrations could be premature since the matter will be heard in court on 14 December 2018.
Chief Executive Officer of ARCCO, Rosanna Barbero said: “For two years we have been asking The Bower Group to work proactively together with ARCCO. A Compliance Order issued by Inner West Council reinforced repeated requests from ARCCO for The Bower to rectify issues including illegal structures, public safety, fire hazards, and centre traffic violations.”
“Unfortunately, these requests were repeatedly ignored, and formal mediation and negotiations failed to achieve an outcome.
“We will be taking swift action to ensure we regain, and remain, compliant with our head lease by addressing the outstanding issues with Hut 34 so as to ensure the safety of all other organisations, community groups and artists that call our site home.
“ARCCO remains committed to ensuring the Addison Road Community Centre remains in public hands and that the essential services provided by the many vital organisations on site are supported going into the future.”
The Bower’s General Manager, Guido Verbist said that he was thrilled with the decision to reopen the centre and that he hopes the community support encourages more civil dealings in the future.
“It’s a big step forward. The big drama was that we might not survive this. Unfortunately all the issues from before the eviction, all the disputes are still there. We hope we can have a correct and transparent process with the two partners around the table,” he said.
Speaking at the centre’s reopening, ABC presenter Costa Georgiadis said: “This is not about a cobbled little straw bale mud-house, in the back-blocks of the Inner West. This is actually a nationally significant piece of Australia’s future and I would go so far as to say that it’s an internationally significant player when it comes to the future of sustainability in our country. When it comes to waste this is the front line of change-making.”