Calls for parliamentary inquiry into Central Pier

Engineers allegedly warned of 'catastrophic failure' 10 months before the pier's evacuation.

A Melbourne lobby group is calling for a parliamentary inquiry into the closure of Dockland’s Central Pier, after reports emerged alleging Development Victoria knew the structure was at risk of “catastrophic failure” 10 months before the pier’s emergency evacuation.

Central Pier, locked in Melbourne’s Docklands, was evacuated on 28 August 2019, after engineers raised concerns about the safety of the century-old structure.

The pier housed a number of venues, including restaurants, bars and an event space that was operated by Atlantic Group and once held functions for more than 1,000 people.

At the time of evacuation, Development Victoria said engineers “assessed Central Pier as being unsafe for use, requiring immediate closure”.

In January, The Age obtained Federal Court documents which allege Development Victoria was warned in 2011 that the structure was at high risk of failure.

The report by The Age also alleges, in 2017 and 2018 engineers told the agency repairs to the pier were “grossly incomplete” and only a full rebuild of the structure would make it safe.

Development Victoria released a statement last month saying is had “undertaken inspections, investigations and monitoring across Central Pier since 2013” and invested more than $7 million on rectification works on the pier since 2017.

“As part of the regular inspections, engineering reports in late 2019 indicated a level of deterioration that occurred rapidly – and we made the decision to close Central Pier in the interests of public safety, which has always been our number one priority,” the statement said.

The Friends of Central Pier group, established by venues operators and suppliers from the industry, are now calling for a parliamentary inquiry to determine whether “Development Victoria’s attempt to terminate the lease of the tenants and the timing of the evacuation was genuine and in good faith”.

“The documents uncovered by The Age investigation clearly brings into question the above and the truth needs to be uncovered,” the group said.

“In fact, investigations revealed that the tenants, workers and visitors to the pier were placed at serious and unnecessary risk, despite the risk of collapse being foreseeable and preventable.”

The group is calling for people to send a letter to their parliamentary representatives to gain support for an inquiry.

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