Fourth abandoned tower is ‘one of many more to come’

The evacuation of Sydney Olympic Park's Opal Towers, pictured, drew public attention to poorly built apartment buildings in December 2018.

The evacuation of Sydney Olympic Park's Opal Towers, pictured, drew public attention to poorly built apartment buildings in December 2018. Photo: ABC News: Jason Om

More than 100 homeowners have been told they cannot move into their newly constructed units in Erskineville, in Sydney’s inner south-west, amid concerns the apartment block was built on contaminated ground.

The City of Sydney said in a statement the development approval for Erskineville’s Sugarcube Apartments and Honeycomb Terraces was conditional on the developer resolving issues about “heavy metals, hydrocarbons and asbestos” in the ground and “contaminated groundwater”. 

But developer Golden Rain Development failed to comply with the approval – and the building remains empty, more than 12 months after construction was completed, the Sydney Morning Herald revealed on Friday.

“We understand this is a most frustrating situation for all terrace and apartment owners connected to the Sugarcube Apartments and Honeycomb Terraces,” a City of Sydney spokesperson said.

City staff have been in ongoing discussions with the developer, who has not complied with the development consent conditions concerning remediation of the site.”

The spokesperson said Golden Rain Development had asked to resolve the contamination on site through an environmental management plan that would require ongoing monitoring.

In response, the City of Sydney asked for a formal submission of the  plan, further testing, and potentially further remedial works.

That testing has been submitted to the council, which is reviewing it. But the spokesperson said the the local government authority would likely require more information from the developer before declaring the site fit for occupancy.

The evacuation of Zetland’s Garland Lofts comes after similar crises at Mascot Towers, pictured, and Opal Towers. Photo: AAP

The latest revelations come after the high-profile evacuations of Sydney Olympic Park’s Opal TowerZetland’s Garland Lofts, and the Mascot Towers on Bourke Street.

Builders Collective of Australia president Phil Dwyer told The New Daily that the news was no surprise.

“It’s just another one of many more to come,” he said.

“We’re going to see more building failures, because, particularly in the past five years, we’ve noticed an enormous lack of skills in the building industry, with builders and people operating in our space who don’t have the skills needed to be there.”

Mr Dwyer’s comments come amid a period of heightened scrutiny into building standards, with state, territory and federal building ministers meeting on Thursday to discuss how best to resolve widespread industry failings.

Following that meeting, the ministers announced they would adopt a nationally consistent approach to implementing recommendations in the watershed Shergold-Weir report.

Released in April 2018, the report made numerous recommendations, focusing on registering and training practitioners, fire regulations and the role and integrity of building surveyors and regulators.

Mr Dwyer welcomed that decision but said governments had made similar promises in the past. 

“If we did have the Commonwealth putting together a code of conduct for the states and territories, that could only be a good thing,” he said.

“We need harmony across the states and territories and across the building industry … but [governments] have been saying that for a long time, using spin and tokenism to get themselves out of hotspots whenever media ramps up.”

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