Flat owners reject $5.1m upkeep bill on barriers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 June, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 June, 2004, 12:00am

Disgruntled residents of a private residential estate in Diamond Hill are refusing to pay a $5.1 million bill from the government, to cover the maintenance costs of nearby public noise barriers.

The Galaxia residents yesterday argued the barriers on Lung Cheung Road were government property. They claimed the developer, Wheelock Properties, did not tell them about the maintenance liability when they bought their flats.

The government says it will take over the regular maintenance costs of the noise barriers, in future, if the residents pay the $5.1 million bill.

The dispute has led to some public escalators being shut down in recent weeks because Galaxia residents refused to pay their electricity bills in protest. At a public forum yesterday, residents' representatives accused the government of ripping them off over public commitments made by Wheelock.

'We would gladly pay $5.1 million if this meant a one-off payment [for all maintenance costs]. But that amount only covers the noise barriers,'' said Mandy Tam Heung-man, of the Wong Tai Sin District Council, who owns a flat in the Galaxia. 'The government is making us pay for public facilities that should have been maintained and paid for by the government.'

Wheelock bought the site in 1993. The terms of purchase required it to maintain a bus terminal, public toilets, fire safety facilities, noise barriers, public lifts, and escalators and stairs connecting the terminal to Hollywood Plaza and Galaxia.

When Galaxia flats went on sale in phases, beginning in 1998, the new flat owners became responsible for paying maintenance costs. The maintenance costs for the escalators, including electricity bills, was between $200,000 and $300,000 a year, said Ms Tam.

But a Transport Department spokeswoman said the flat owners were obliged to fulfil their obligations. The $5.1 million offer was aimed at easing the residents' liability, because the government would thereafter pay to maintain the noise barriers, she said. 'It was in their contracts when they bought the flats. We are not ripping anyone off.'

A spokesman for Wheelock did not return calls last night.