The Victorian Building Authority believes negligence or error likely played a role in a massive collapse at a building site in Melbourne’s Mount Waverley.

Investigations into a Melbourne building site collapse will look at the role played by a surveyor who was also involved in the provision of a building permit for the Docklands apartment that caught fire in April.

The wall collapse occurred at a construction site on the corner of Highbury and Huntingdale Roads in Mount Waverley, where excavation work was being conducted to build a three-storey building 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.

According to Victorian Building Authority Chief Commissioner Bill Kusznirczuk the collapse was almost certainly the due to human factors, with investigations currently underway to determine the precise cause.

“The investigation will be conducted by the building authorities – there’s already an investigation underway by the relevant municipal building surveyor at Monash Council and also WorkSafe,” said Kusznirczuk to 774 ABC Melbourne.

“What we can most probably say it that a man-made hole of this magnitude should not collapse and even if mother nature might have assisted it, it wouldn’t have been fully to blame.”

The investigation undertaken by the Building Authority will give considerable attention to the role played by the surveyor for the site – a Gardner Group employee who has been involved in numerous projects around Melbourne, including the Docklands apartment complex that caught fire in April.

Evacuated residents may have to wait some time before they can return to their homes, with even inspection work for adjacent houses delayed until the construction site itself is secured.

“Until the hole’s been filled up, until it’s been made safe, we can’t inspect the homes,” said Sergeant Adrian Stafferton. “It’s too dangerous to go into them at the moment, certainly the rear home.

“No work can be done until it is made safe. They’ve got to shore up the walls of the excavation so that nothing else falls down.”

  • Well Marc, Bill K says human factors – no surprise! It wasn't the rain – no surprises! And we have the same surveyor here as responsible for approving the Lacrosse building which caught on fire – no surprises there.

    As for the VBA being the investigator, therein lies the problem. The VBA/BC has a long and well established history of near to zero enforcement of laws and regulations – it the root cause of all problems; almost no punishment or penalties and no deterrence, the VBA staff all too cosy with those they are meant to discipline. There is the annual VBA/surveyors Golf day! There are the Awards from the AIBS to senior VBA staff and vice versa – VBA to the AIBS! Then this is the same surveyor group awarded so many large and lucrative contracts, including the not insignificant $63 Million Goods Shed North building – the home of the Building Commission and its re-named, re-badged VBA.

    Clearly a very close alliance between the VBA and the Gardner Group. But we do not know who the surveyor was. We do not know even who works there. No information on the website or elsewhere. What we do know is that the 'investigation' will go on, on until all have forgotten and it will disappear!

  • Surprised anyone? Maybe this time someone will take notice of the lack of effective controls when registering so many in this industry.

  • 'almost certainly due to human factors!' Now that's stating the bleeding obvious. Who lets a someone cut a 15 metre hole with near vertical walls in a clay/small rock substrate? Where is the engineering and geotechnic report? Everyone knows that a vertical wall cannot be cut and left open to the elements unless perhaps one of solid sandstone. This type of unqualified approach to earth works, similar to the recent problem in Sydney, needs to be dealt with as negligent vandalism, with the full costs assigned for remediation and compensation, including the surrounding properties.

  • What is the relationship between the Victorian Building Authority (formerly Building Commission) and Gardner Group? According to the company's website, Gardner Group were involved in a building project at the The Goods Shed North & South, including fit-out of the Victorian Building Commission. One has to ask whether it is appropriate for VBA staff to investigate if they have a pre-existing relationship with staff from Gardner Group? There is a significant potential for a conflict of interest, especially given Australia's culture of 'helping out' one's mate.

  • Anyone who thinks a building surveyor is going to check more than the number of toilets and hand basins is kidding themselves.