A representative for eight businesses based on Melbourne’s Central Pier have expressed “disbelief” at Development Victoria’s decision not to reopen the 100-year-old structure.
Development Victoria on Friday announced its decision not to reopen the pier, following a 15-week assessment of the structure by engineering firm KBR.
The closure resulted in the loss of 1300 jobs, according to a spokesperson for the business which occupied the now-abandoned pier.
Restaurants and function venues were abruptly evacuated on August 28 after engineers told Development Victoria – which is responsible for the Docklands pier – that the structure needed to be closed as it had rapidly deteriorated and wasn’t safe to use.
Hospitality company Atlantic Group is one of the pier’s tenants. Its CEO, Hatem Saleh, issued a statement yesterday on behalf of the occupants of the pier.
“We are extremely disappointed with the timing of today’s rushed announcement given that Victoria is in a state of emergency and all attention is rightly and properly on the devastating bushfires across Victoria and NSW,” Mr Saleh said in the statement.
“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.
“Thank you to the tens of thousands of people from across Australia who have come forward and supported the businesses and workers on Central Pier.
“Our thoughts remain with the firefighters, their families and everyone affected by the devastating fires across Victoria and NSW.”
Events including the NAB AFL Rising Star awards were forced to find last-minute replacement venues and fences were put up around the area.
According to Development Victoria, the assessment of the pier revealed the piles that support it are rapidly deteriorating due to rot, marine borer and termite attacks.
Development Victoria CEO Angela Skandarajah said the pier would continue to deteriorate, even if funds were put into repairs.
“Even if we were to invest significant funds and time in repairs, our engineers advise the issues will continue to resurface without ongoing specialist maintenance work,” she said.
“This investment would still not guarantee that the pier can be made safe for public access in the medium to long term due to its ongoing deterioration.”
Development Victoria said $7 million has been invested in rectification works to stabilise the pier.
In October businesses at the damaged pier launched legal action in the Federal Court over claims Development Victoria engaged in “misleading and deceptive” conduct in its role as the landlord of the precinct.
The action was lodged five weeks after the pier was dramatically evacuated.
The businesses are claiming Development Victoria knew when it signed a lease with the tenants in mid-2015 that the pier was deteriorating “at an increasing rate, despite the repair works it was carrying out”.
They also claim Development Victoria led tenants to believe the repairs being undertaken would allow them to continue to do business until the end of their leases in 2026, but say this claim was “misleading and deceptive”.
Ms Skandarajah said it wasn’t a decision taken lightly.
“We appreciate that this is not the news businesses and staff hoping to return to Central Pier want to hear,” she said.
“It has been a difficult decision and we regret that the pier must remain closed. But we cannot support a lengthy and expensive repair program that cannot guarantee the pier’s safety for public use.”
Despite the refusal to fund repair works, Development Victoria said it remains committed to ensuring a future for Central Pier and will work with the community and a range of other stakeholders to identify opportunities to rebuild the pier.