A $36 million project has caused some turmoil in a small inner city, Wickham. The development of the Huxley Apartments started legal battles, physical and verbal altercations between neighbors, builders, and union officials. Many businessmen and residents who are running a company or living near the building site on Beresford Street said they have been dealing with the dust, noise, and road closures brought on by the construction of the 64 storey apartment.
However, Basebuild, the construction company working on the project, defended itself and said the mentioned problems are part of the “growing pains.” The 16th month project is expected to be completed this month and two union officials are also set to meet in court because of a physical confrontation which happened last year. Before the incident, representatives of the Construction, Mining and Energy Union went to the site to check on the safety issues reported by workers. A heated argument occurred and the site manager was allegedly assaulted by the officials when he objected to the spot inspection. The police escorted the union while officials who conducted a subsequent inspection reported violations on workplace health and safety laws.
CFMEU Newcastle office coordinator Peter Harris said they were concerned of another altercation. He also noted that the union denied the builder’s claim and said they will defend their officials in court. The union added that they are not required to inform of anybody about a spot inspection especially if it was triggered by complaint’s about site safety. They were legally bound to perform the inspection.
Meanwhile, aSafeWork NSW spokesperson declined to comment on the matter. Instead, he said that improvement notices were already issued to prevent falls from heights and scaffolding as well as promote electrical safety. The spokesperson also said that SafeWork NSW visited the construction site several times last year. During that time, they found now work health and safety issues. On the other hand, Basebuild Managing Director Scott Shafren described it as minor issues, which they already addressed. However, he remained mum about the alleged assault on the company’s site manager and said that the issue is already being heard by the court.
In addition, the company still has issues with nearby businesses like Metro Cycles and Bank Corner Café. They both claim that the construction has driven them nearly out of business. They complained of “dust storms” and construction noise at 80 to 90 decibels. Bank Corner Café Manager Monique Lee said the dust produced by the construction is a health hazard. One resident also claimed that his family had to move out from Cove Apartments because the dust from the construction site made his son ill. His health problems immediately subsided after they moved out. Basebuild Managing Director Scott Shafren said they have taken the necessary measures to control the effects of dust while they do the work.
The owner of Metro Cycles Bernie Hockings also complained that two-thirds of the parking spaces in the area were lost because of the project and his business has continued to suffer because of it. He added that workers came in early to reserve more of the parking spaces. Shafren, in defense, said workers were already advised to car pool and park in council-approved areas.