Minister to extend TIO Stadium exemption from building act, announces review of all government buildings

by | Jun 27, 2022 | News | 0 comments

Planning Minister Eva Lawler has announced the need to review all government buildings in “control areas” for non compliance with the Building Act 1993, while saying she has extended TIO Stadium’s exemption from complying with the act, with the first exemption having sparked an Office of the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption investigation into her actions.

Ms Lawler announced the Building Compliance Taskforce on Monday but provided no detail about how many other government buildings – apart from TIO Stadium – could be non-compliant with the act, stating only the taskforce would be made up of “senior agency representatives” and would review all government owned buildings in building control areas, and provide advice to government on to make them compliant.

The NT News reported Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics Department chief executive Andrew Kirkman, the man who has been in that position since September 2016, and presided over the non-compliance, would head the taskforce.

It was not clear how this taskforce differs from the Building Certification Unit, or if it will replace it, and whether it is intended as a permanent body.

The Building Compliance Taskforce is being formed due to the complicated nature of certifying older buildings, as has been experienced through the Marrara Stadium certification process,” she said.

However Ms Lawler did not explain how a taskforce would make it easier to get buildings certified

She did not publicly list all the buildings that could be non-compliant and potentially unsafe, and did not respond to questions about any buildings the government was particularly concern with, and what evidence she was using to make her statement that “Northern Territory Government buildings are safe”, when they are yet to be reviewed.

Her statement had a link to a website that stated building control areas were: Darwin; Alice Springs; Lake Bennett Resort; Katherine; Tennant Creek; Jabiru; Batchelor; Adelaide River; Borroloola; Pine Creek; Brewer Estate; Elliot; Katherine Gorge; Kings Canyon; Larrimah; Mataranka; Namarada;Timber Creek; Ti Tree; and Yulara.

Government buildings in other parts of the Territory are exemption for having to be certified compliant with the act.

Ms Lawler’s department is under investigation by the NT’s anti-corruption body after she moved to temporarily exempt TIO Stadium from requiring the proper safety certification in March for three months, following years of failed attempts to obtain an occupancy permit and while the ICAC was making enquiries about the issue. In her Monday statement she said “the government” would be extending the declaration exempting the stadium but did not say for how long or why.

The NT Independent understands the original ministerial notice issued by Ms Lawler may also serve to protect her from an alleged breach of the Building Act, after she had called for Territorians in a Facebook post to “head down to TIO Stadium” to support a local footy team.

The occupancy permit could not be obtained because professional certifiers and engineers would not sign-off on the building due to unresolved critical safety issues, including the water pressure concerns.

The NT Independent revealed in August 2020, before the AFL Dreamtime game between Richmond and Essendon, that the stadium had not been certified since it was constructed in 1990 and does not currently possess an overall occupancy permit – which according to the NT Building Act means people cannot occupy the building until a certificate is issued declaring it “fit for occupation”.

In early June this year, before the last AFL match Gold Coast and North Melbourne, NT firefighters raised concerns with NT Fire and Rescue Service and the government about the weak water pressure at the facility, necessitating mitigation measures including bringing in a water tanker, which at least one firefighter said would not help in the event of an emergency.

The lack of proper water pressure could put firefighters lives at risk, as well as the public, in the event of a fire at the stadium.

In her statement Ms Lawler said a number of tests on the fire safety services have been undertaken over the past six months with all tests meeting current Australian standards. She was asked by the NT Independent to share the testing or the advice she used to deem the fire system safe but did not respond.

The government has struggled to certify the building for occupancy due to ongoing serious public safety issues including electrical issues, improper emergency exits and the substandard fire hydrant water pressure

“Territorians have been safely using Marrara Stadium for 30 years and can be assured of the ongoing safety of the Territory’s premier sporting facility,” she said.

The ICAC’s investigation may include possible breaches of Section 66 of the Building Act that forbids anyone to “promote or conduct a public assembly in a place, building or temporary structure unless an occupancy permit has been granted…” and could also include looking into public statements that have alleged to be misleading provided by Ms Lawler’s department

“A number of tests on the fire safety services have been undertaken over the past six months with all tests meeting current Australian standards,” she said.

Public officials who fail to act in the course of their duties could be subject to provisions of the criminal code.

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