The jetty had been closed to traffic, but not pedestrians, for some years. (Supplied: Google Maps)
An “ageing” jetty which collapsed on Rottnest Island injuring three people had been identified in a 2010 review as having structural issues, and only being suitable for pedestrian traffic.
A boy and two women, aged 63 and 48, were fishing off the Army Jetty, at the southern end of Thomson Bay, when the structure gave way about 6:20am on Wednesday.
The jetty has been closed to all but pedestrian traffic for several years and Rottnest Island Authority board chairman John Langoulant said there had been no indication the jetty posed any risk to people using it.
But Mr Langoulant conceded the jetty was “ageing” and that money had recently been allocated to upgrade it.
“The authority just last month allocated $500,000 for the jetty to effectively be upgraded for purposes of immediate concern, and we also agreed to take a study in to the next couple of years to look at replacing the whole jetty.
“Interestingly I was there on Sunday. I stood on exactly that piece of concrete.
“I walked off that jetty thinking we do need to redevelop it … but to identify it as being a real risk, there was no reason for me to be concerned when I stood there on Sunday.
“We had received no advice that it wasn’t safe for pedestrians … and today’s accident is highly regrettable.
As well as the 2010 review, a Rottnest Island Authority report in 2014 also warned about structural issues with the Army Jetty.
“The concrete hard stand of the jetty has deteriorated over recent years, and the assessment of an engineer has recommended that it is closed to vehicle and boating traffic due to structural integrity,” that report stated.
“It has been estimated that it would cost approximately $3 million to replace this facility.”
Mr Langoulant said he had no concerns about the island’s other jetties.
“We undertake an active program of inspection and maintenance on those jetties because they are high-volume, high-traffic jetties,” he said.
“We are very comfortable with the safety of those jetties. As I said the Army Jetty is a very historic, very lightly used jetty.
“It has no commercial purpose to the island, it has no thoroughfare. It is effectively closed other than for those people who wish to go and fish from it, or simply to use it as a walk.”
Visitors assured of island’s safety
Mr Langoulant would not say exactly what inspections and maintenance had been carried out on the Army Jetty in recent years, but said an in-depth review would be undertaken.
“There has been maintenance out there from time to time, but I don’t have all of the precise records collected right now to be able to tell you exactly what has occurred year by year,” he said.
“We’re going to do a review, a detailed review of just what was occurring at that facility.
“That … will identify whether there has been any oversight or any difficulties.”
Mr Langoulant assured visitors it was safe to travel to Rottnest Island.
The collapsed jetty is at the southern end of Rottnest Island’s Thomson Bay, seen to the left in this photo. (Supplied: Rottnest Island Authority)
“What I want to do is assure the people of Western Australia — and anyone else from around Australia or around the world who comes to visit this island, and many, many thousands of people do — that to come to this island you can have a terrific experience, you can be safe, you can feel safe,” he said.
“The assets which we maintain we take great pride in, and we are distressed by this. This was a really unfortunate accident, that’s how I see it and we are going to get to the bottom of what has occurred in respect to this jetty over the years.
Mr Langoulant says he was on the jetty on Sunday and saw nothing to indicate anything was seriously wrong. (ABC News)
“Our main concern as the board of this island is to ensure that everybody who visits the island is safe and has a great time.”
In 2009 a young boy was crushed to death by a pillar which collapsed at an accommodation unit on the island.
Mr Langoulant said a lot of work had been undertaken since then to ensure there was no repeat of the tragedy.
“Since then we’ve spent close to $17 million going through the accommodation facilities on the island to be sure that any of those risks have been taken care of,” he said.
Government fails to ensure visitor safety: Opposition
The previous government had planned to replace the jetty as part of a project for a new marina, but that was abandoned after last year’s state election.
Opposition Leader Mike Nahan said the Government had failed to ensure Rottnest’s facilities were safe and properly maintained.
“If the marina project had been carried out, the Army Jetty would not be there today,” he said.
“You can have Roger Federer kissing quokkas to attract people into the island but if the infrastructure is falling in people will hear about it and won’t come.”