The builders and engineers behind the redevelopment of Brisbane’s most iconic sports grounds have been sued over allegations that shoddy design meant the roof was unable to withstand heavy wind and rain during severe storms in 2008, media reports say.

The Courier Mail has reported that Stadiums Queensland, the Queensland government body which manages the Gabba, is suing construction giant Watpac and engineering firm Robert Bird Group for $7.5 million, alleging negligence in the design and building of a cantilevered roof built in 1999 after two parts of a sail structure were blown away and supporting pylons were damaged when the small scale tornado hit during a series of storms which impacted southeast Queensland in 2008.

In its claim, the government body said Watpac’s work was not ‘good, proper and workmanlike,’ and that the engineers had offered misleading information by claiming the roof was strong enough to withstand winds of the Australian standard of up to 216 kilometres per hour.

Although no readings were taken at the ground on the day in question, the closest reading at Archerfield airport suggested that wind speeds reached 81 kilometres per hour.

Watpac has denied liability and has counter-claimed against Robert Bird Group, which in turn denies it was negligent and will soon file an expert report.

First set aside as a cricket ground in 1895 and hosting its first cricket match in 1896, the Gabba hosted its first test match between Australia and South Africa in 1931 and is now one of Queensland’s leading sporting facilities.

It was redeveloped in six stages over a 12-year period between 1993 and 2005 at a cost of $128 million to boost seating capacity (now 42,000) and increase the dimensions of the playing arena in order to accommodate Australian Football League matches.

A succession of storms lashed southeast Queensland over a five-day period spanning November 16 to 20, 2008, which saw severe winds and heavy rain and flooding affect a widespread area including the Brisbane CBD.

The latest developments come amid a challenging time for Watpac, which saw a 16 per cent slide in first half profit and suffered a $20 million revenue hit earlier this month when resource outfit BC Iron announced early termination of Watpac’s mining services contract for the Nullagine Joint Venture in the Pilbara region.

  • Sounds to me like someone is grasping at straws. For 9 years, the structure was "… good, proper and workmanlike" enough to deal with Brisbane's variable weather, but when an ultra rare event like a tornado comes through and damages the structure, it obviously must be due to the negligence of the engineers and builder.

    Having lived through the tornado that ripped through Nathan, Robertson and Macgregor in November 1973, I am well aware of the destructive forces that even a "small scale" tornado can unleash on building structures. A look through photos from that event, would be a good reminder for anyone, of not only the destructive forces involved, but also the selective nature of those forces. I also know that any wind speed reading at Archerfield is totally irrelevant to what happened at Wooloongabba.

    Unfortunately, the government is now going to waste millions of tax-payer dollars – not to mention the considerable sums that will also be wasted by Watpac and Robert Bird Group – in trying to recoup some money to deal with the cost of repairs from 7 years ago. Just good money after bad… in my opinion.

  • Lawyers win again, everybody else loses!

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