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Police expect more crumbling at Mount Waverley construction pit as residents demand answers

Resident Cory Grant has noticed the site has been crumbling further every day since the initial collapse. Photo: Meredith O’Shea MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JULY 18: The Hole Construction site on the corner of Highbury and Huntingdale road Mount Waverly July 18, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Meredith O’Shea/Fairfax Media) Photo: Meredith O’Shea

Mount Waverley residents have expressed anger and confusion at a community meeting over a crumbling construction pit that threatens two townhouses.

They demanded answers on what had caused the collapse earlier this week, who was responsible and the short and long-term plans to deal with the problem.

About 80 people, including authorities and media, were at the meeting on Saturday afternoon at a Baptist church across the road from the site.

Glen Waverley Sergeant Adrian Stafferton told residents only questions about emergency management would be answered, with building permits and liability the subject of a Victorian Building Authority investigation.

However, this didn’t stop people  trying to glean answers on whether the council held any responsibility.

“Is the chief engineer here to explain why he didn’t step in to enforce the reinforcement?” one man asked, to which he was stonewalled.

“So the council is trying to shift the blame or something?” he later asked.

Monash Council mayor Paul Klisaris, who did not speak at the meeting, defended the council’s actions.

“This application, this development, went through all the correct channels and met all the criteria of our planning processes,” he said.

“The applicant then went off and received a private building permit to get their own building surveyor.”

The closest the meeting got to answers into the cause of the collapse was when a woman asked if further rain would cause more damage.

Golder Associates engineer Chris Haberfield, who has been brought in as part of the emergency management plan, said rain had triggered the collapse but was not the fundamental reason for the collapse.

As the hole under one of the townhouses grew on Friday night, Sergeant Stafferton said they expected further crumbling.

“It’s a bit like a volcano, they know the volcano’s going to erupt, but when it’s going to happen, we don’t know,” he said.

Lars Eriksson, a builder who lives about 50 metres behind the site on Barlyn Road, said he understood mishaps could happen.

“But can we can get some kind of traffic management plan?” he said.

“I couldn’t go to work yesterday morning for two hours, this morning it took me half-an-hour to get out and this afternoon I spent an hour trying to pull in to get into my laneway.”

Another resident wanted to know where all the trucks were going to go filling the 10,000 cubic metres hole, that was estimated to require about 1000 truck loads of dirt to refill.

Meanwhile, the 12 students who were living in the townhouses will have to leave the hotel they are staying at, currently being paid for by the site’s builder, Action Master Builders, on Thursday.

“You don’t feel good when you don’t know where you’re going to live,” Tipman Wong, 24, said.

Cr Klisaris said the council had been working with the Salvation Army to provide food and clothing for the students and would see they had somewhere to stay at the end of the week.

Hoards of day trippers came to survey the site on Saturday, including Chris Keegan, of nearby Gross Court, who said his first concern, after the safety of the townhouse’s residents, was whether the council had appropriately issued a permit.

“Because land is becoming so valuable and there are many, many of these excavations coming along, just how capable are councils in providing permits,” he said.

“I’ll be very interested to know why the permits hadn’t been put in place to put piles in, that I imagine you normally would, before they start digging holes.

“I don’t know if it’s a reasonable enough excuse to say we’ve had an  unprecedented amount of rain and that’s why that happens. It’s probably not good enough.”

Cory Grant, of nearby Essex Road, has been coming down to the site every day.

“Over the last few days, I’ve noticed little bits and pieces have been crumbling off from under the driveway,” he said.

“The driveway is probably going to start snapping and crumbling into the hole. It’s dangerous and horrible.”

Mr Grant and Mr Keegan said the building disaster had been disruptive to locals.

“It’s been very disruptive,” Mr Grant said. “The traffic has been horrible.”

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