Docklands’ Central Pier closed indefinitely over safety concerns as businesses plan to sue

The historic Docklands Central Pier has been shut down indefinitely after it was revealed the structure would take years and “tens of millions of dollars” to rebuild to a safe standard.

Development Victoria confirmed today it would not reopen the 100-year-old structure after it was suddenly shut in late August due to public safety concerns.

The decision came after an engineering firm found there had been rapid deterioration in the pier, placing a cloud over eight businesses located in the precinct including a pub, cocktail bar, restaurants and event venues.

The assessment by Development Victoria found that, despite previous repairs, the rate of deterioration to the piles that support the pier was accelerating due to rot, and marine borer and termite attacks.

Chief executive Angela Skandarajah said a complete rebuild of the pier was needed and the process was made slower and more complex because of the historic nature of the structure and its location.

“At this stage we’re saying it would not be a repair, it would essentially be a rebuild, and that planning process needs to commence now,” Ms Skandarajah said.

“We will need to carefully consider what it may look like, we’ll start those conversations across government, but that would be a three to five-year process of planning and creating a new pier.”

Extensive repairs had been performed over the past three years and Development Victoria had invested $7 million in rectification works to stabilise the pier.

“We recognise its historic nature and importance to the Docklands area and we will be looking to see what we can do to ensure that in the long-term the pier can be open to the public as a safe place for them to use and occupy,” Ms Skandarajah said.

“Obviously this is not an easy decision to us, and not the decision we wanted.”

Businesses left in shock

Hundreds of staff lost their jobs following the closure of the pier in August and a spokesperson for the eight businesses said the tenants were in “disbelief”.

In a statement, the businesses said they were “extremely disappointed” with the timing of the announcement as the state grappled with a bushfire crisis.

“It is clear now that tens of thousands of people have been put at serious risk over a long period of time due to Development Victoria and its failure to maintain Central Pier,” the spokesperson said.

“We asked that the announcement be held off until the fire threat subsides and to allow us time to inform our workers and clients, but Development Victoria refused.

“Despite this, we will not be [commenting] until after the fire threat has subsided.”

The spokesperson told the ABC the business owners had collectively invested about $50 million in rejuvenating the pier since 2007.

The businesses affected are now suing the State Government, alleging Development Victoria neglected to maintain the pier.

Docklands turning into a ‘ghost town’

Opposition spokesman for priority precincts David Davis said the Government’s handling of the crisis had been “shocking”.

He said it had made parts of Docklands look “like a ghost town”.

“People are going to lose their businesses completely and many will be left in a very dire financial position,” Mr Davis said.

“It’s either terrible incompetence or a genuine heartlessness on the part of this Government, and I don’t think they care about businesses at all.”

Ms Skandarajah said the shutdown had not been an easy decision to make.

“Safety has always been our primary concern and the decision is based on safety grounds,” she said.

“The Docklands area is a vast area and there are many other businesses and activities. We understand this was an important part of the activity in the Docklands, but we still think there is a lot of things that will attract people.”

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