A highly undiplomatic stoush has erupted in a quiet street of O'Malley over the comings and goings at the United Arab Emirates embassy.
Neighbours of the embassy in Bulwarra Close say that a fence built around the front and side of the property is not compliant with restrictions and take issue with the number of bins associated with the building, as well as a security camera that overlooks another block. A security post is attached to the fence, which is staffed around the clock.
The most concern centres around the number of cars that park out the front of the embassy, as well as delivery trucks that visit the property regularly.
Resident Mandy Harris said that she has had trouble with tradespeople being able to enter her property because of the number of cars on the street out the front of the embassy, and cars blocking her driveway.
The street in O'Malley is home to four embassies or high commissions - Serbia, Kenya, Slovakia and the United Arab Emirates, as well the Kuwaiti Cultural Office, which is next door to the UAE embassy. O'Malley is one of the designated areas in Canberra for diplomatic buildings. On Thursday a Fairfax Media photographer photographed many cars lining the street, as well as many parked out the front of the Kuwaiti Cultural Office. Residents say that the street is almost empty outside the business hours of the embassies. They believe most of the cars are attached to the UAE embassy and the Kuwaiti Cultural Office.
Parking restrictions have been introduced to the area due to complaints by residents.
Some residents Fairfax Media spoke to were reluctant to go on the record due to fears of repercussions in the neighbourhood. One resident described the embassy as a "mini Alcatraz".
While the embassy has been on the street for many years, the issues around cars and the fence have only created problems in the past two years. Neighbours believe ambassador Obaid Al Ketbi is more security conscious than his predecessors.
ACT Planning said a development application for a fence on the block was submitted on December 13 2017, but neighbours say the fence was built months before this date.
According to a spokesperson for the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate, "the application failed the completeness check as additional documents were required. It is anticipated these will be provided shortly and the development application will be lodged and publicly notified".
"While the applicant can lodge an application for approval of an already constructed fence, there is no guarantee that it will be approved. Should the fence be refused, it will become a matter for Access Canberra to consider compliance action," the spokesperson said.
Harris accused DFAT of "keeping their heads in the sand" over the issues.
Embassies in residential areas are granted exemptions from the clause of Crown leases which states they must be used for residential purposes. This exemption is only granted for three years, but can be extended on the request of the diplomatic mission. Residents in the street believe the exemption should no longer be granted because of the size of the embassy.
A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said "The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is aware of complaints from residents in O'Malley, which have been conveyed to the UAE Embassy".
"DFAT regularly reminds embassies about the importance of adhering to local laws," the spokesperson said.
The building is not owned by the UAE, but by Chris Maleganeas. Due to his ill health, Fairfax Media spoke to Mr Maleganeas' son, also named Chris, about issues with the property. Mr Maleganeas said he had been in contact with the neighbours, and said an architect was currently investigating whether the fence out the front of the embassy was compliant. If it was found to be too tall, he committed to reducing its height or taking it down.
Mr Malegeanas disputed claims by the residents about the number of cars and whether they are attached to the UAE embassy, and said there was only one security camera which faced the garage of the property.
"The UAE embassy has always been a great tenant for us, always been courteous always kept it ultra clean and in pristine order and we've never had an issue with the tenant or the neighbours until now," he said.
The UAE has been granted a tract of land by the Australian government on which to build a permanent embassy on nearby Culgoa Circuit. It is unclear when building might start at that location.
The UAE embassy was contacted for comment.
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