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Respond To Minister Jacinta Allan

To Hon. Minister Allan,

We were disappointed to read your response to our letter and we respectfully bring the following to your attention.

Your response unfortunately proceeded against a background of significant misinformation provided to you and it did not address the many genuine concerns that have been raised regarding Development Victoria’s management of this heritage-listed site.

The documents referenced by The Age form part of the public record in the Federal Court proceedings and on any view raise serious concerns about how Central Pier was managed over a significant period of time. We are unclear as to your response to the issues of mismanagement clearly identified by the public record documents.

Your letter notes that $7 million has been invested into repairs and restoration works on Central Pier, with inspections every two months prior to the closure. However, you would be aware that in 2017 and 2018, engineers and construction experts told Development Victoria that past repairs had been “grossly incomplete”, and it was likely only a “complete rebuild” could bring the pier up to safety standards.

It is also difficult to believe and accept statements to the effect that “the safety of workers, residents and businesses at Docklands will always be the Victorian Government’s highest priority.” We now know that in November 2018 that engineering firm KBR – which had been responsible for monitoring the structure since at least 2013 – sent an explicit warning to Development Victoria about the immediacy of the threat. The relevant part of that notification clearly states that:
“We take the unusual step of writing to you to express our serious concerns in relation to the continued use of parts of Central Pier despite our engineering advice that those parts of the Pier should have restricted access pending remedial works,” the firm wrote in November 2018.

Despite this explicit and clear warning, for nine months these businesses, including venues that could hold up to 3400 patrons, continued to operate on the pier without any warning regarding the clear risk to life, health and safety.

Development Victoria eventually informed the tenants of Central Pier of the emergency closure on August 28, 2019. This was 10 months after Development Victoria had been told by experts that Central Pier was at “extreme” risk of collapse – this status was identified internally by Development Victoria and by its external consultants but was ignored.

It is simply incorrect to assert that hundreds of workers on Central Pier were offered support post the emergency evacuation, via the Workers in Transition Program. No such offer was ever made despite repeated requests. No worker has therefore received any such support.

We find it difficult to understand how the Victorian Government would endorse Development Victoria’s management of Central Pier and its failure to observe the most basic safety requirements.

The continued misinformation presented by the Government presumably through briefings from Development Victoria only galvanises the Friends of Central Pier to continue to get proper and honest answers from Development Victoria. Accordingly we ask that you receive a proper briefing from Development Victoria and then respond to the many concerns raised in our previous letter. As stated from the outset, we have not received a proper response.

The workers, tenants and visitors deserve to know the truth about the circumstances that led to the closure of the Pier and how the Victorian Government will respond to the plight of the workers and tenants at Central Pier and what explanation will be given to the many visitors that used to come to the Pier and enjoy the many offerings.

We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

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