Coroner launches investigation on Wall collape

The Victorian Coroner’s Court today launched its inquiry into the circumstances surround the March 28 Swantson Street Grocon Wall collapse.  Coroners’ Court Judge Ian Gray, assisted by the Victorian Police, acknowledged the public interests in the inquiry and warned of procedural delay arsing from the potential for persecutions that may arise from independent inquiries undertaken by WorkSafe and the Building Commission. 

It may take up to two years or more to be concluded depending on the extent of any prosecutions that may be launched.

The Victorian Police are in the process of preparing a report for the Coroner focusing on the history of the site, the design and construction of the collapsed wall and the hoarding that was attached to the wall.  The Police report will also cover the regulatory requirements governing the building site and will be supported by expert evidence.

In attendance were representatives of the Building Commission, WorkSafe, Grocon, the City of Melbourne and the families of the victims of the accident.  The CFMEU has also sought leave to be represented in the hearing as their members and staff were employed on the construction site and also in attendance immeadiatly after the wall collapase.

The French Embassy also sent an observer but they will have no formal standing in the proceedings

Judge Ian Gray reserved his decision, subject to the tabling of the report from Victoria Police, on whether or not the CFMEU will be granted leave to appear

No date was set for the tabling of the Police report but the court is expected to convene again one month following the Police evidential report copies of which will be provided to all parties.

Given the close  association between the developer GroCon and the various government authorities representation by the CFMEU would assist in maintaining public confidence in Coronal review which is independent from Government

Police investigating why wall debris was removed from collapse site

City of Melbourne denies any responsibility for permits to construct a hoarding

In a surprised turn around the City of Melbourne has come out and denied that it has any responsibility to issue permits for hoardings on private property.

Previously the City of Melbourne had stated:

We can confirm that the City of Melbourne has not issued a permit for the structure attached to the wall.
 
There are four relevant legislative frameworks – Planning, Building, Occupational Health and Safety and Local Laws. There are intricacies in the way in which these interconnect and overlap.  These complexities are likely to be considered by the investigating authorities.

A CMP (Construction Management Plan) does not replace the need for Planning, Building or Local Laws approval for specific works. These must be sought separately.

Developers, builders and owners along with lawyers will have a field day with this one. Anarchy reigns in Melbourne’s Streets  I wonder what the Coroner and the Work Safety inquiries will make of this one.  

 The City of Melbourne has a permit application for hoardings which comes with a fee for service. They have published a full list of permits required and a hoarding, fence and advertising sign is on the list which is also included in the

City of Melbourne Local Law 2009.

Part 7 BUILDING STANDARDS Compliance with Code
Part 13 PERMITS When is a permit required under this Local Law?

What the response from the City of Melbourne (published below) failed to mention or make clear was that under the local law a hoarding (Both on public land and on private land) must comply with the City of Melbourne Construction Management Plan and the relevant design standards related to height and wind loading  The code of practice, (1.4) which is referenced in the City of Melbourne Local Law, stipulates a maximum height of 2.4m and ability to withstand wind loads to AS1170.2 standards

Under the the Code of Practice

Item 2. Definitions“Hoarding” means “a high temporary fence or structure enclosing a demolition site or a building site during building works, to restrict access and provide side protection to the public”
Item 4. Hoardings

4.1 … Hoarding screens must be constructed of closely boarded timber or plywood between 1.8m to 2.4m in height to secure a building site and form a barrier against noise, dust and debris.

… Hoardings are to be designed to withstand wind loads to AS 1170.2 with counterweights as necessary to prevent overturning. In addition hoardings adjoining excavations are to be designed to withstand a lateral line load of 0.75 kN/m applied at a height of 1 metre from the base and suitably guarded by barriers to prevent vehicular impact.

 
With all the word games and “intricate interconnect overlap and complexities” that surround this issue there is a clear need for the City of Melbourne to undertake an independent review of the legislative provisions governing public safety on building sites and the City Council.

This should be done as a matter of urgency and without delay or waiting pending the outcome of the Coroner’s report or other investigations that are currently underway in relation to the March 28 Swanston Street Wall Collapse. It will have to be done eventually,. The sooner they start the better

Council response dated: Tuesday, 7 May 2013 12:08 

I refer to the Future Melbourne Committee Meeting of 15 April 2013 – Question without Notice in relation to 555-591 Swanston Street and 2-76 Bouverie Street, Carlton and provide the following response.


Question:

“Did the City of Melbourne issue a permit for the construction of the new hoarding on the CUB Swanston Square project site?  The height being significantly taller than the 2.4m maximum permitted height pursuant to the City of Melbourne Construction Management Plan Guidelines.

Has the City of Melbourne inspected the site since the new hoarding was constructed?  If not, why not?”

Response:

No permit has been issued for the construction of a hoarding.
The temporary fence/hoarding is located on private property.  In this instance a permit is not required under the Activities Local Law 2009.

The structure is also exempt from a building permit under the Building Regulations 2006
(Sch. 8).

The structure satisfies Element 1, Item 1.5 of the City of Melbourne Construction Management Plan Guidelines as:
1.   
It is a solid barrier
2.   
The barrier prevents viewing; and
3.   
The barrier should restrict unauthorised entry


It is the owner’s responsibility to ensure the structure is designed, installed and maintained in accordance with engineering principles and must satisfy any relevant standards.

City of Melbourne officers attended the site shortly after the barrier was erected.
Angela Meinke | Manager Planning and Building | City Planning and Infrastructure

City of Melbourne | Council House 2, 240 Little Collins Street Melbourne 3000 | GPO Box 1603 Melbourne 3001
T: 03 9658 8400 | M: 0429 502 043 | F: 03 9658 9891
|www.melbourne.vic.gov.au | |www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/whatson

ABC Error in Reporting on Council’s Press Release on Wall Collapse

The ABC, following a complaint in relation to an article on the Wall collapse in Swanston Street, reported that the City of Melbourne was not required to issue a permit for the hoarding.  The ABC reporter was wrong.

ABC’s response to the complaint

ABC News acknowledges the reporter misinterpreted the press release issued by the City of Melbourne and consequently inadvertently misrepresented the council’s position.

News advise that the release came after several days of phone calls by the reporter to the City of Melbourne asking about whether or not a council permit was required and, if so, whether one was issued. She was told by council officers that the situation regarding permits was confused as there were a number of different authorities involved. The confusion was compounded by the press release, which was not received until late in the day. On reading the release she came to the conclusion that it was indicating that the council did not need to issue a permit.

ABC News apologises for the error. The story has been corrected and an editor’s note attached.
The City of Melbourne Press release did not state that the Council “did not need to issue a permit” to the contrary it stated that 

We can confirm that the City of Melbourne has not issued a permit for the structure attached to the wall.  

There are four relevant legislative frameworks – Planning, Building, Occupational Health and Safety and Local Laws. There are intricacies in the way in which these interconnect and overlap.  These complexities are likely to be considered by the investigating authorities.

A CMP (Construction Management Plan) does not replace the need for Planning, Building or Local Laws approval for specific works. These must be sought separately.

The City of Melbourne’s responsibility of the subject of a number of inquiries including the Coroner, Work Safety and the Building Commission.  The Council has refused to undertake an independent inquiry into its responsibility on the administration of public safety, it’s Local laws and liability

March for Public Safety: Melbourne Community in Solidarity with Workers

Some 8,000 to 10,000 Trade Unionists and members of the public marched in solidarity for public and workplace safety.

The Union rally follows on from four deaths associated with GroCon buildings sites in Melbourne. One Worker who fell from a construction site crane and three innocent pedestrians who were killed when a hoarding and brick wall collapsed on March 28.

Whilst the main focus was on GroCon and the State Government Work Safety questions are being asked as to the City of Melbourne’s responsibility and why it failed to issued a permit or inspect the Swanston Street building site?

The City of Melbourne needs to undertake an internal review of its role in the tragic events and its statutory obligations.

  • Is GroCon being given favourable consideration and are they exempt from local laws and prosecution?
  • Has the City of Melbourne been negligent or are they turning a blind eye in a gentleman’s agreement? 

The media are also asking questions but the Council has gone underground refusing to answer, hoping to weather the storm and escape attention from three government inquiries.  Worksafe, the Buildling Industry and  a Coronal inquiry.

There is a need for a fourth Statutory compliance and review which must look closely at the role of the City of Melbourne in overseeing Construction site public safety.

The City of Melbourne has a whole department of Engineers and exactly what do they do other then Engineer congestion, attend seminars and drink coffee? If they are not providing oversight, inspection and enforcing the rules why are they employed? Why are rate payers paying their wages?

The Union movement plans further rallies should the government inquires seek to scape goat or fail to hold to account those responsible.  This includes the City of Melbourne and the State Government

CFMEU: Tuesday March for Safety

The CFMEU (Construction Forestry Mining Employees Union) and Victoria’s Trade Unions will be marching next Tuesday April 30 in support of Safety on Melbourne’s Building sites.  The  march begins at Trades Hall in Victoria Street,  and will proceed to the Swanston Street site of last month’s tragedy for a minute’s silence as a sign of respect.outside the GroCon CUB building site on Swanston Street.

The City of Melbourne still has not provided information why it had not issued a permit or inspected  the building site hoarding which collapsed on March 28.killing three innocent pedestrians.

Councillor Stephen Mayne, Chairman of the Council’s Finance and Governance portfolio, was unable to answer questions from the public last week if the City of Melbourne had issued a permit for the new hoarding or if it had inspected the site and if not why not?

The City of Melbourne continues to shift blame and avoid accountability for for its own failings. Public Safety is the prime directive and obligation of the City Council. Stephen Mayne describing public concerns about safety on the GroCon site as “Grandstanding”

CFMEU: Tuesday March for Safety

The CFMEU (Construction Forestry Mining Employees Union) and Victoria’s Trade Unions will be marching next Tuesday April 30 in support of Safety on Melbourne’s Building sites.  The march will start at 10AM outside the GroCon CUB building site on Swanston Street.

The City of Melbourne still has not provided information why it had not issued a permit or inspected  the building site hoarding which collapsed on March 28.killing three innocent pedestrians.

Councillor Stephen Mayne, Chairman of the Council’s Finance and Governance portfolio, was unable to answer questions from the public last week if the City of Melbourne had issued a permit for the new hoarding or if it had inspected the site and if not why not?

The City of Melbourne continues to shift blame and avoid accountability for for its own failings. Public Safety is the prime directive and obligation of the City Council. Stephen Mayne describing public concerns about safety on the GroCon site as “Grandstanding”

Negligence or Corruption a question on Twitters mind

Questions remain unanswered following last months fatal wall collapse with the City of Melbourne ducking for cover and in lock down mode avoiding responsibility.

According to a City of Melbourne spokesperson a permit is required for the construction of a hoarding on a building site. The City of Melbourne in its statement published on April 9 stated that a permit was not issued for a hoarding on the GroCon Swanston Street building site that collapsed on March 28 killing three pedestrians.

When asked on April 16 if the Council had issued a permit for the NEW hoarding on thee GroCon Swanston Street site and if the Council Officers had inspected the site and if not why not? Councillor Stephen Mayne, Chairman of the Council’s Governance portfolio was unable to answer and took the question on notice.

A week has passed and still the City of Melbourne has not been able to respond to this important and yet simple question.

Questions are being asked if the Council is guilty of contributory negligence for the death of three innocent people by failing to fulfill its statutory obligations and/or if Council staff had received inducements to turn a blind eye to the requirement to issue a permit for the construction of a hoarding?  Both the new and old hoardings were taller then the maximum height of 2.4m listed in the Council’s Construction Management Plan guidelines.

It is a simple question and deserves an answer. 

Council itself, and Councillor Mayne in particular, are now being compromised by the Council’s failing to reply.  Avoiding the question will not make it go away and only serves to undermine public confidence in the City Council’s Administration.

The Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle, may also be tainted by the Council’s lack of response with allegations being made that Councillor Doyle is actively seeking to block twitter discussion and review of his administration.

Negligence or Corruption a question on Twitters mind

Questions remain unanswered following last months fatal wall collapse with the City of Melbourne ducking for cover and in lock down mode avoiding responsibility.

According to a City of Melbourne spokesperson a permit is required for the construction of a hoarding on a building site. The City of Melbourne in its statement published on April 9 stated that a permit was not issued for a hoarding on the GroCon Swanston Street building site that collapsed on March 28 killing three pedestrians.

When asked on April 16 if the Council had issued a permit for the NEW hoarding on thee GroCon Swanston Street site and if the Council Officers had inspected the site and if not why not? Councillor Stephen Mayne, Chairman of the Council’s Governance portfolio was unable to answer and took the question on notice.

A week has passed and still the City of Melbourne has not been able to respond to this important and yet simple question.

Questions are being asked if the Council is guilty of contributory negligence for the death of three innocent people by failing to fulfill its statutory obligations and/or if Council staff had received inducements to turn a blind eye to the requirement to issue a permit for the construction of a hoarding?  Both the new and old hoardings were taller then the maximum height of 2.4m listed in the Council’s Construction Management Plan guidelines.

It is a simple question and deserves an answer. 

Council itself, and Councillor Mayne in particular, are now being compromised by the Council’s failing to reply.  Avoiding the question will not make it go away and only serves to undermine public confidence in the City Council’s Administration.

The Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle, may also be tainted by the Council’s lack of response with allegations being made that Councillor Doyle is actively seeking to block twitter discussion and review of his administration.

Melbourne’s Death Wall Rebuilt Even Higher

Melbourne’s “Swanston Square” construction hoarding has been rebuilt on the site of the fatal wall collapse.  The new wall is over 3m tall, taller than the maximum height of 2.4m listed in the City of Melbourne Construction Management Guidelines.

It is unclear if developer GroCon has obtained a permit for the new construction as required under the City of Melbourne Local Laws or if Gorcon has special permission to bypass building controls within Melbourne or if the City of Melbourne has once again turned a blind eye to building site safety.

Yesterday, funerals were held for two of the victims of the March 28 Swanston Street wall collapse. The monument to those that died left standing,

The nearby pedestrian  sign, that is about to collapse in an unstable state left for over a week by the City of Melbourne. A reminder of the City’s “commitment” to pedestrian road safety