Council extends construction hours
By Sean Car
The City of Melbourne has temporarily adjusted the management of construction activity in “certain cases” in the municipality in a bid to fast-track construction projects, save jobs and help limit the economic impact of coronavirus (COVID-19).
It comes after a construction worker from the Melbourne Square project in Southbank contracted the virus last month, leading to the development’s temporary closure for precautionary cleaning. The site reopened days later, sparking widespread debate as to whether the industry was equipped to be dealing with government’s new safety measures around social distancing.
Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the council’s temporary measures would allow extensions of working hours on some building sites for commercial, large residential and mixed-use developments.
“The changes will allow the construction industry to work safely and remain viable during these challenging times but they will not allow construction activity around the clock,” the Lord Mayor said.
“We understand these changes may affect residents with a potential increase in noise, however we are attempting to strike a balance between the needs of residents and the need to keep people in jobs. We recognise these extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.”
“The necessary health and safety measures, such as social distancing, are impacting the productivity of the construction industry. We’re responding by adjusting the hours available for construction work on a case-by-case basis.”
“We are doing our best to support industry and residents during these uncertain and stressful times.”
Deputy Lord Mayor Arron Wood said the temporary arrangements would be reviewed on a monthly basis to ensure the needs of both the construction industry and local residents were met.
“We’re working to balance the need to save jobs in the construction sector by allowing different ways of working and still protecting public safety and amenity,” the Deputy Lord Mayor said.
“I want to stress that these changes are temporary.”
“More officers will be out monitoring building sites to ensure compliance with the regulations. We reserve the right to issue fines or revoke construction permits for sites that don’t follow the rules outlined in their construction permit.”
“In turn, we seek commitment from the industry to ensure that everything possible will be done to preserve residential amenity and protect workers.”
In response to COVID-19, federal and state governments have acknowledged the construction industry as an essential service and determined that it should remain in operation for the time being.
Construction sites are subject to increased health and safety precautions including limiting the number of workers on site, adhering to social distancing requirements, following personal hygiene guidelines and regular cleaning of equipment.
The city’s local law currently allows for construction activity to occur between the hours of 7am and 7pm on weekdays and between 8am and 3pm on Saturdays. Approval is required from council to work outside these standard hours.
The council said the temporary measures would not apply as a “blanket approval” and would be administered on a case-by-case basis under the existing local law via “out of hours” permits.
The City of Melbourne will consider the following extensions as a general guideline:
Weekdays: 6am to 8pm (and up to 10pm for some internal fit out works that aren’t externally audible e.g. plastering, painting, etc.)
Saturdays: 7am to 5pm (and up to 10pm for some internal fit out works)
Sundays: 10am until 4pm for limited activities related to crane works that are unable to be completed during standard hours.
On April 24, the state government announced that it had established a dedicated taskforce to help keep the state’s building and development industry running through the coronavirus crisis.
Minister for Planning Richard Wynne and Treasurer Tim Pallas will oversee the taskforce, which will investigate planning and investment opportunities to boost the industry, while providing advice to government on issues impacting the industry.
Co-chaired by former Victorian Property Council president and Lendlease executive Roger Teale, Victorian Planning Authority chair Jude Munro AO and Victorian Public Service CEO Stan Krpan, the taskforce will receive advice from three industry working groups and be guided by a steering committee, involving representatives from industry peak bodies and unions.
The government said the taskforce would initially focus on overseeing the fast-tracking of planning approvals using ministerial powers, where decisions had been delayed due to coronavirus related impacts on the Victorian planning system.
As part of the announcement, Minister Wynne also approved four new projects worth more than $1.5 billion, which included Australia’s tallest tower at City Rd in neighbouring Southbank.
The state government will also seek the taskforce’s advice on a pipeline of building and development projects over the longer term, including initiatives that further expand social housing options.
The taskforce will advise on financial incentives and current revenue measures such as land tax, developer contributions, fees and rates and make recommendations to help businesses survive and fast-track investment •
For building and planning related enquiries:
9626 9626 or melbourne.vic.gov.au/building-and-development