Beverly Hills residents who say their homes have been damaged by ongoing construction of the nearby WestConnex claim the RMS has blocked their access to original and updated geotechnical reports on their properties.
Beverly Hill North Progress Association spokesman, John English told the Parliamentary Inquiry into WestConnex on October 17 that an independent arbiter needs to be appointed to assess damage complaints.
Mr English said his home in Elouera Street, Beverly Hills has been extensively damaged since work started on the nearby King Georges Road interchange project in June, 2015.
For the past two years he has been requesting that the RMS release the geotechnical reports.
He last wrote to the RMS in August requesting a geotechnical investigation into properties in Elouera Street and the supply of geotechnical data and infrastructure plans relating to the King Georges Road interchange, which is part of WestConnex.
The RMS refused to supply the data or plans due to “security concerns”.
An email from Westconnex communications manager Louise Bonny, said an early geotechnical report on Elouera Street properties conducted in July 2017 did not find damage was caused by construction activities related to the King Georges Road Interchange.
Instead, the report concluded that the subject properties were outside the “zone of influence of the excavation”, that is 25 to 30 metres from construction, and that damage was caused by “seasonal moisture variations” and “abnormal moisture conditions” in the groundwater table.
“The the basis of these findings, the RMS does not consider further geotechnical investigation to be required to support these findings,” Ms Bonny said.
The residents said they only received a summary of these findings and it is necessary for them to see the full report.
“The report, which was written by the RMS’s subcontractror’s engineer, said the cause of the damage could be due to a number of factors including the removal of a tree, which occurred 15 years ago, overflowing water tanks and a dripping garden tap,” Mr English said.
He added that the excuse for concealing the geotechnical documents due to “security reasons” was unacceptable.
“We have a right to access these documents, as the issue of causation for our home damage is central to the issue,” he said.
Mr English said he Department of Planning has a governance role it ensuring the RMS comply with its responsibilities to residents and their property.
“It’s now time that the Department of Planning carry out their supervisory obligation and issue a Notice of Compliance to the RMS to provide the documents we requested to support their claim that homes located outside 25 to 30 metres from the construction are “outside the zone of influence”.
Mr English told the Parliamentary Inquiry that the situation where the contractor supplies their own engineer to conduct a dilapidation assessment urgently needs to be reviewed.
He said families are forced to fund their own investigations into the cause of damage but then are blocked by the RMS from obtaining documents such as geotechnical and vibration reports needed for their case.
“Our own engineer advised of omissions contained in the dilapidation report issued by the contractor.
“It’s questionable that the cause of significant cracking could be put down to the likes of an alleged dripping garden tap, while not addressing the elephant in the room, being the nearby Westconnex construction.
“If the RMS are not at fault for the damage, why are they hiding these documents?” Mr English said.
“We would appreciate a Notice of Compliance” issued to the RMS to provide detailed vibration and geotechnical documents as and when requested by all damage claimants.”
“We have lost all confidence that the RMS and WestConnex staff can deal fairly with families encountering home property damage,” Mr English said.
An RMS spokesperson said, “RMS and Sydney Motorway Corporation take property damage claims very seriously and liaise with impacted property owners to assess and resolve any claims that are brought forward. Everyone associated with the construction of WestConnex is committed to minimising the impact of construction on communities.
“Designated properties for the King Georges Road Interchange upgrade (KGRIU), which was completed in December 2016, were offered pre-construction surveys that assessed relevant buildings before construction. These surveys ensured a clear record of a property’s condition was identified and kept prior to construction starting. The acceptance of a pre-condition survey is voluntary and at the owner’s discretion.
“The contractor for the KGRIU had a formal process for assessing property damage and communicated this process to property owners who lived near the works. This process met the requirements of the project’s Conditions of Approval determined by the Department of Environment and Planning.
“Roads and Maritime Services, Sydney Motorway Corporation and the KGRIU contractor have had extensive communication with Mr English in relation to his property damage claim.
“Mr English, along with the other eligible residents, were provided with a copy of their pre and post condition reports for this project.
“An independent structural engineer (with no prior involvement in the KGRIU project) completed an additional assessment of Mr English’s claim, and Sydney Motorway Corporation and the KGRIU contractor accept all findings of the additional assessment.
“The engineer’s report concluded the observed damage was not the result of any construction activities related to the King Georges Road Interchange Upgrade.”