The Victorian Building Authority has come under fire for its failure to undertake sufficient measures to safeguard residents and buildings from incidents such as the Mt Waverley pit collapse.

The highly damaging  collapse of a building pit in the Melbourne suburb of Mount Waverley has led to calls from local government for an overhaul of the state’s construction industry regulator.

Manningham Council is calling for improvements to Victoria’s building surveying system in order to better protect both people and residences from devastating construction accidents such as the Mount Waverley pit collapse.

The building site collapse occurred at the corner of Highbury and Huntingdale roads in July, following the performance of excavation work for the construction of a three-storey building equipped with an underground car park.

The resulting 15-metre deep pit has compromised the foundations of two adjacent townhouses as well as compelled the evacuation of more than a dozen local residents, including a family of four from their own home and a group of 10 students residing next to the building site.

The council made a no-confidence motion in the Victorian Building Authority at a bi-annual meeting of the Municipal Association of Victoria’s governing council, following the release of two reports from the Auditor-General that concluded the state regulatory body has been remiss in its duties.

According to the council there are currently no safeguards in place to ensure that surveying work is being properly performed, or that “the risk of injury or damage to any person is being minimised.”

The motion submitted by the council further stated that the VBA had “lost the trust and respect of councils and the community” as a result of its negligence.

Members of industry have echoed the views of Manningham Council, with spokesman for the Building Industry Reform Group Phil Dwyer stating that the council’s motion of no confidence was “just repeating what everyone is saying: no on has any confidence in the authority.

“For the authority to say otherwise is just laughable.”

VBA chief executive Prue Digby expressed her disappointment at the motion submitted by the council, and said that its members had failed to “[understand] the role of the VBA.”

  • Digging a 15 metre hole so close to other buildings almost worked.
    A 15 metre deep excavation is done by a brave person without taking any protective measures.
    I have seen a similar work in basalt in Melbourne without any problems.
    No one ever knows how rock will behave, and, where its fault lines occur.
    We should not let this extreme case be the starting point for even minor excavations.
    We do not grow an experienced workforce overnight. Before we flood the industry with more regulations maybe should remind everybody about the basic buildings techniques every body learned in their first year at University. Excavations are part of the construction process and they should be documented. This incident has caused much pain and cost, and, we should be thankful there was no deaths in the process; it can be viewed as a positive outcome, as it has reminded everybody how they should behave.
    I can appreciate Manninghams concern as they have a workforce that is going from building Houses to multi storey buildings with basements. Manningham Council Building Surveyors have been part of the education process of the workforce for many decades and they have had few problems.

  • It would be interesting to hear the full response from Ms Digby on this and the reasons why she feels the criticism represents a misunderstanding of the VBA's role.

    Certainly, the regulator is under fire on all sides at the moment, whilst the assignment of blame is not helpful, neither the building industry nor the general public appear to have much reason for any form of confidence in the regulator or the building control environment right now.

  • Gordon, it is great to see you report on this issue and heartening to see that some councilors have had the courage to speak up. To suggest there is 'no confidence' from those who are honest and ethical and know the appalling Victorian building governance record is unsurprising. Sadly, the average owner or prospective building consumer has no idea – if they did, they too would be shouting from the rooftops 'NO CONFIDENCE'! The truth, the facts and the high risk of serious harm has been deliberately hidden from all Victorians. Mr and Mrs Average do not sit around reading the VAGO and Ombudsman's Reports, nor do they scrutinize the Annual Reports, nor have time to become 'informed of the terrible truths'. This well known and 'strategically' factored in to the VBA spin – and the Departments and CAV!

    I do think that the Councilors 'no confidence' motion is a good start, but way too magnanimous. The evidence on the public record indicates way more than the VBA's 'maladministration'. For the average consumer who has not read the VAGO Reports – and in fact there are three (3) from 2000, 2011 and 2015 on the BC/VBA and the scathing Ombudsman's Report of 2012 – they are defenseless.

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