Engineers may have ‘missed’ serious defects at Central Pier

Hundreds of people were evacuated from venues at Docklands Central Pier in late August. Picture: Jason Edwards
Hundreds of people were evacuated from venues at Docklands Central Pier in late August. Picture: Jason Edwards

Tenants of Melbourne’s Central Pier are demanding answers after discovering things were much worse at the Docklands site than they had been led to believe.

Expert engineers may have missed crucial defects at Docklands’ Central Pier, and wrongly focused on another area before the popular precinct was abruptly closed.

The Herald Sun can reveal checks carried out every two months in the 12 months to August this year by engineering consultant KBR failed to detect that almost a third of the piles under Shed 14 had some form of defects.

Tenants are now questioning how they can trust Development Victoria appointed KBR — and are demanding to know if people were placed at risk.

Shed 14 is currently being assessed, where its understood 28 per cent of the piles inspected show some form of defects.

The Herald Sun has been told Shed 9 had been the focus of inspections as it was assumed it was in worse condition.

Development Victoria confirmed engineers inspected the pier every two months to “guide structural stabilisation works” and $5 million was spent on rectification works over the past two years.

It said there had been no advice that the entire pier was not suitable for occupation until it was evacuated on August 28.

But there was sufficient concern before then to ban heavy vehicles.

The MFB confirmed “safety advice” prevented their appliances being used during a 2016 fire on the pier.

  • “MFB appliances have been restricted from accessing Central Pier in Docklands for a number of years, following structural safety advice regarding load limits that was received from Development Victoria. Development Victoria re-enforced this restriction to MFB in August 2019.”

The government body would not answer specific questions on Thursday, saying it was legal matter and would be defended.

Tenants of the pier are taking legal action, possibly in excess of $100 million, because they allege they were led to believe the site would be structurally safe.

Geoff Ward, of Development Victoria said in a statement “expert engineering advice” in August meant the pier was closed for safety reasons due to “rapid deterioration of the structure”.

  • “A detailed assessment of the 1300 piles by divers and load testing on the top of the pier is now under way to understand the full extent of the damage to the pier and to identify what remediation works may be required and when the pier might re-open.”
  • “The safety of people working on and using the pier will be critical to any decisions made about its future.”

The Woolshed pub is one Central Pier business forced to close and shed almost all its staff.

General manager Duncan Laidlaw said someone needed to be held accountable for what happened at the pier.

  • “We were always told Shed 14 was safe … If they hadn’t been looking at it, what were they looking at? Everyone on it during that time, was their safety at risk?

He questioned what the $5 million had been spent on and what exactly triggered the closure decision.

  • “This has been mishandled, clearly work they have said has been done has not been.”


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