28 Dec 2018

Opal Tower residents told to leave for second time

6:23 am on 28 December 2018

Furious residents of Sydney's Opal Tower have confronted the owners of the apartment building after being told to leave for a second time in four days.

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Photo: Supplied / Google Maps

In a statement released on Thursday afternoon Icon, the builder behind the project, said all residents would be relocated over the next 24 hours so a "comprehensive investigation" into a crack on the tenth floor of the building can take place.

Residents were warned the investigation may take 10 days but Icon could not guarantee when they would be allowed to return.

They said accommodation would be secured for all residents at nearby hotels and compensation would be provided by the builder.

However, residents were told they would need to spend another night in the tower despite looming questions about the structural integrity of the building.

They were told to expect an email in the morning informing them of their new accommodation.

A community meeting about the abrupt vacating of the building was scheduled at 2:45pm on Thursday afternoon, but was sent to residents via email at 2:19pm.

Many of the residents were out enjoying their holidays and were unable to ask the developer questions.

Icon director Julian Doyle was confronted by one angry resident outside the building who questioned how long the process was going to take.

"You ask us to move back now you ask us to evacuate again," the resident said.

"The accommodation [you provided] is terrible [compared] to our apartments, which we paid for.

"How long shall we wait for final results and can we get some fair treatment?"

Mr Doyle said they were evacuating all residents to "expediate" the investigation process.

"We're still investigating [and] we really want to investigate further," he said.

"We're spending a lot of time and energy with a team of the country's best engineers to try and understand why this actually took place 18 months after it was installed.

"Getting it right is most important and looking after the residents is most important."

Residents were originally evacuated from the building on Christmas Eve after a large crack developed on the tenth floor of the newly-opened building.

It was later revealed to be a concrete panel, known as a pre-cast panel. Fifty-one apartments - or about one third of the inhabited residents in Opal Tower - are still considered unsafe for residents to return.

Icon, which until today has been almost silent on the structural problem, said the damaged section of the building had now been reinforced as a "precautionary measure" while a team of engineers carried out the investigation.

It said the building was "structurally sound".

The investigation is being led by global engineering firm WSP, with assistance from senior engineers from Japanese-based Kajima Corporation, the majority owner of Icon.

"We believe we did get it right ... we're spending a lot of time and energy with a team of the country's best engineers to understand why this took place 18 months after it was installed," Mr Doyle said.

Icon's announcement comes as the NSW Government named two professors of engineering to lead an inquiry into what happened on Christmas Eve.

University of NSW dean of engineering Mark Hoffman and University of Newcastle engineering dean John Carter will lead the investigation.

Developer defends the project

Ecove is the developer behind the project.

Company director Bassam Aflak, who first spoke on the issue two days after it occurred, said the company had been as "transparent as possible".

However he has declined repeated requests from the ABC for an interview.

"We're pushing as hard as everyone else for information on what's happened," Mr Aflak said in a written statement.

"The city's 'development boom' has not led to cutting of corners.

"There has been no cutting of corners."

The Opal Tower's development approval came under the "state significant development" legislation - introduced in 2011 - and was given the green light by the NSW Department of Planning in 2015.

Many residents from the tower - even those not in the affected area - have indicated they will be looking for alternative accommodation.

Although some have returned home, some experts have suggested the problems in the building could trigger a fire sale.

The apartments sell for $620,000 for one bedroom and one bathroom and up to $935,000 for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment.


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