Streets that never sleep as builders race clock to finish Brisbane’s newest school

A construction company building Brisbane’s newest school has subjected residents to months of sleepless nights, noisily working into the early hours of the morning without a permit from the Brisbane City Council.

Jan 25, 2021, updated Jan 25, 2021
The noisy construction site in Brisbane's south. (Photo: ABC)

The noisy construction site in Brisbane's south. (Photo: ABC)

Broad Construction and other contractors are working day and night to finish the construction of the new Brisbane South State Secondary College in Dutton Park, set to open this week.

In addition to the school itself, the State Government said road upgrades and services to intersections were required to facilitate the school.

The night works, which residents say have been a combination of roadworks and construction on the school, start at 6:00pm and go through to 4:00am.

Andy Stamatiou lives right next to the project and said the noise has been so bad his wife has had to sleep elsewhere.

“It’s affected us that bad that my wife has had to move out from home,” Stamatiou told ABC Radio Brisbane.

“She travels to her mother’s place … and she’s been staying over there.

“She’s a shift worker and she has to get up in the early hours of the morning to come home, get dressed and go to work from there.

“I would like for this noise to just stop.

The State Government told ABC Radio that all night works had been temporally suspended and that no construction work has been taking place after 6:00pm.

Five new schools will open this week in southeast Queensland to help ease the stranglehold of soaring population growth on the region’s education infrastructure.

Three of the campuses have been built in booming pockets on the Sunshine Coast, where the population is expected to swell to 500,000 in the next two decades.

Assistant Education Minister Brittany Lauga said the schools had cost the State Government $400 million.

“Between 2016 and 2026 we’re expecting about 8000 additional school-aged children each year in Queensland schools,” Ms Lauga said.

“Over 90 per cent of that growth will be experienced in the south-east corner, so we need to build schools for that growth.”

Jonathan Sri is the Greens councillor for the Brisbane City Council representing the Gabba ward, and his office has been looking into the overnight construction after residents began raising concerns in July last year.

“[Since] September, October, the project stepped-up to doing night works on a regular basis,” Sri said.

“So, we’ve now had three or four months where almost every single night there has been noisy construction works directly across the road from where dozens of people live.

“That’s impacting people’s sleep, mental health, their ability to work.

“That’s a real concern because you don’t want a situation where bus drivers are rocking up to their shifts sleepy or you’ve got surgeons going into hospitals and they haven’t had a good night’s sleep.

“It turns out that the company that is doing the works for the State Government doesn’t seem to have had any of the necessary permits for night works.

“Under the Environmental Protection Act it’s unlawful to do noisy construction work at night without those approvals.

“And despite complaints from residents, and from my office, it seems like neither council nor the State Government has looked into this closely enough.

“At the end of the day, neither governments have issued permits for night works and as a result we’ve had residents losing months and months of sleep without the company having any lawful authorisation to do that work.”

Statements from both the Brisbane City Council and the State Government indicate that no permit has been approved by either body.

The State Government said the council was responsible for approving any works outside the Ministerial Infrastructure Designation (MID).

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“The planning department is working closely with the Brisbane City Council and the contractor to find a solution,” the State Government said.

The council said it advised the State Government that any out of hours works without a valid permit were not lawful and that in addition to the development approval, the correct permits also needed to be issued.

Both the school and Broad Construction declined to comment.

Calls for compensation

Sri said if the construction company was found to have acted unlawfully, residents should be compensated.

“This isn’t a minor thing: this isn’t about inconvenience; this is about dramatically impacting people’s lives,” Sri said.

“Some [residents] have had to move house, some have lost work or have had to take time off work.

“I think perhaps compensation is in order because what we are talking about here is someone essentially acting unlawfully or acting without lawful permit and people have suffered as a result.

“I’m not sure whether that compensation should come from the State Government itself or come from the construction company, but those residents have really suffered.

“We’re all excited about the school and we think it’s a great project, but the impact on people’s lives has been dramatic and needs to be acknowledged.”

Brisbane South State Secondary College is being built to cater for the rapidly expanding inner south of Brisbane.

The first stage of the school is due to be open for just year seven next Wednesday.

Stamatiou said he could not see the school being ready to open next week.

“Unless they want the students to walk through mud and scaffolds,” he said.

– ABC / Edwina Seselja and Robert Mailer

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