By Michael Bleby
It has taken six months for the builder to tell clients that it was faulty engineering that caused a potentially fatal accident. The client, an inner-Melbourne Council, has called this statement unsupported and “not supported”.
Adco Constructions, which built the Kew Recreation Centre located in Melbourne’s Inner East on 20 October last year said that it had commissioned an engineer to conduct a report and found they were not at fault.
The letter, titled Confidential Statement from the Victorian state manager of Adco on 7 March states that: “The report concludes the collapse was caused by a design issue. It was not due to any issues related to fabrication or installation.”
This report was sent to both the [Boroondara] Council, and WorkSafe Victoria [the regulator], in order to help with its ongoing investigation.
The Australian Financial Review reported on the letter, which was obtained as part of Freedom of Information requests to City of Stonnington in neighbouring Victoria and an Adco customer. The council of Boroondara responded strongly Friday.
The council does not accept the expert’s conclusion as to why the roof failed, a spokesperson said.
At this time, the implication made in Adco’s correspondence is that no problems existed with the fabrication or erection.
Adco, one of several mid-tier contractors vying for more money from the Defence Department to double its infrastructure spending, and one Melbourne’s richest local councils have erupted into public dispute after a nearly year-long silence.
Adco has declined to make any comment. Williams Ross Architects is the firm that designed the recreation center. A lawyer representing the company said it denied all responsibility but refused to provide any further comment.
Adco could have referred to the “design issue” as temporary structures it used during the assembly of the roof structure. For this, it relied on the advice provided by a consultant hired for the project.
WorkSafe Victoria will investigate the collapse. This could take up to a year, but it’s not guaranteed that they will make their findings public. The regulator will not make any comments on the investigations.
Kew Recreation Centre’s collapse almost one year ago is a prime example of how claims can be spread unchecked in an opaque commercial construction world.
Adco has been making claims to the other clients about this project since at least March but Boroondara Council did not respond. After the Financial Review inquired about the letter, the Council responded.
Phil Dwyer of Builders Collect, a national advocacy organization, stated that the council was “absolutely responsible” for being transparent regarding the project, which would double its cost.
Dwyer claimed that “that’s going to be blown out to at least $130 to $140 million. It will probably double as all of this goes on.”
The builders are not responsible, nor transparent. It’s outrageous how secretive commercial builders are.
ACIF’s forecasts show that more than $12 billion will go to community buildings, prisons, and defense facilities over the course of three years.
Spokesman: The Council could not provide any comment regarding the cause of this collapse.
The Victorian Building Authority and WorkSafe are carrying out detailed investigations on the cause for the collapse, he added.
The seriousness of this matter makes it inappropriate to have council pre-empt any outcome and engage in idle speculation.
The site has now been left largely untouched by the wreckage from the accident. Last week the council stated that they were reviewing the steel structure and planning to rebuild it.
According to the council, the completion date is likely “early” 2026. This date has been pushed back an additional year from early 2025 that was discussed in the May meeting.
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