14 October 2022

Call for compensation, tougher regulation after second wall collapse

| Ian Bushnell
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Calypso excavation pit

The Calypso excavation pit and the rear yards of Dickson residents. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

Residents affected by Tuesday’s wall collapse in Dickson should be compensated by the developer and an independent engineer’s report on neighbouring properties should be compulsory before sites can be excavated, according to Canberra’s major construction union.

The union’s call comes amid reports of further landslips impacting at least one of the backyards on the three Lowrie Street properties affected by the collapse of a concrete retaining wall at Art Group’s Calypso site excavation early on Tuesday morning.

CFMEU ACT Secretary Zach Smith said the ACT needed to step up industry regulation, including the registration of engineers and licensing of developers.

“The simple fact is accidents like this one are more likely to happen in Canberra than elsewhere in Australia because of our lax regulatory environment,” Mr Smith said.

“When you allow unlicensed tradies and unlicensed developers to do whatever they want you’re going to increase the chances of these incidents.

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“We’re not just talking property damage and financial damage, we’re talking about workers’ safety.”

Mr Smith called on the ACT Government to urgently bring forward legislation for engineers registration and a developer licensing scheme, as well as for independent engineer’s reports.

“We need new laws to force developers or contractors pay for an independent engineer’s report regarding the stability of the ground on adjoining properties, so residents have peace of mind,” he said.

“In this latest incident the developer should be compensating everyone affected … but going forward we need new laws to force developers or contractors pay for an independent engineer’s report regarding the stability of the ground on adjourning properties, so residents have peace of mind.”

Minister for Sustainable Building and Construction Rebecca Vassarotti said legislation for an engineer registration scheme would be tabled in the Legislative Assembly next month, and a discussion paper would be issued in coming months on a developer licensing scheme.

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A Government spokesperson said Access Canberra building inspectors and its senior engineer were continuing to work with the builder to ensure the neighbouring sites remained safe and stable.

Asked whether residents should be compensated, the spokesperson could not comment as the matter was still under investigation.

Nor could the Government say how long the investigation or the rectification works will take.

“This matter is still under investigation so it is difficult to determine how long the rectification works will take,” the spokesperson said.

“Access Canberra building inspectors and the senior engineer will continue to work collaboratively with the builder and WorkSafe ACT throughout the rectification works.”

The spokesperson said it was unlikely that the investigation report would be made public.

The Dickson collapse comes after a similar incident at Geocon’s WOVA site in Phillip in August.

That collapsed wall took part of a roadway with it and caused a multi-storey carpark next door to be evacuated.

The wet weather is believed to be a factor in both incidents.

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