Engineers’ pier pile-up

Central Pier after closure
Central Pier after closure

Crucial defects may have gone undetected

EXPERT engineers may have missed crucial defects at Dock-lands’ Central Pier and wrong-ly focused on a separate area before the popular precinct was abruptly closed.

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

Tenants are questioning how they can trust the Devel-opment Victoria-appointed
firm and are demanding to know whether people were put at risk.

Shed 14 is being assessed, where it is understood 28 per cent of the piles inspected showed some form of defect. 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 said engineers inspected the pier every two months to “guide structural stabilisation works” and $5 million had been spent on rectification works in the past two years. It said there had been no advice the pier was unsuitable for occupation until its August 28 evacuation.

But there was enough con-cern before to ban heavy vehi-cles, with the MFB confirming “safety advice” prevented their appliances being used during a 2016 fire on the pier.

  • “MFB appliances have been restricted from accessing Cen-tral Pier in Docklands for a number of years, following structural safety advice regard-ing load limits that was re-ceived from Development Victoria. Development Victor-ia re-enforced this restriction to MFB in August 2019,” it said.

The government body would not answer specific questions yesterday, saying it was a legal matter.

Tenants are taking legal ac-tion alleging they were led to believe the site would be struc-turally safe.

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

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

Former Central Pier tenant, the Woolshed pub, has been forced to close and has shed almost all its staff.

General manager Duncan Laidlaw said someone needed to be held accountable.

  • “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 said.

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