Expert Witness – Central Pier, Docklands Case

CivicMJD is actively engaged in expert witness valuations nationwide, offering its specialised expertise across a diverse range of asset classes. Notably, our Melbourne team, under the leadership of David Tunbridge, played a pivotal role in the recently settled Central Pier (Docklands) v Head Landlord – Development Victoria case.

Our mandate originated from Rigby Cooke Lawyers, representing the applicant Head Tenant – Central Pier (Docklands) Pty Ltd (CPD), and its sub-tenants, in a legal claim against the Head Landlord – Development Victoria. The focal points of the case were as follows:

On 28 August 2019, Development Victoria issued CPD a notice mandating immediate evacuation of Central Pier, citing safety concerns and risks to life.

Subsequently, on 3 January 2020, Development Victoria issued a further notice terminating the Head Lease (and sub-leases) effective from 10 January 2020.

The Federal Court proceedings, initiated five years ago, were scheduled for an 8-day hearing commencing Monday, 5 February 2024. Media reports estimated the collective impact on businesses, resulting from the abrupt eviction by Development Victoria, to be in the vicinity of $42 million. However, a confidential settlement was reached on the first day of the hearing.

In our capacity as professionals instructed by CPD’s legal representation, we were tasked with providing a comprehensive valuation report pertaining to Alumbra, a Sub-Tenant operating a licensed bar and nightclub venue with a 3 am late-night licence. The sub-lease, due for renewal from June 2020 for a renewed term, included a market rent review effective from the renewal date. The existing rent and our assessment of the new market rent were considered in this context.

Development Victoria engaged its own Valuer, whose report assessed the market rent differently. Following Orders from the Federal Court, the Valuer for the respondent and we, as the Valuer for the applicant, participated in expert witness conferences to discuss our valuations. A joint expert report was filed with the Court in late 2023, outlining relatively minor differences in assessments arising from the specialised nature of the operation and the challenging circumstances surrounding the valuation exercise. The closure of the business made inspections, observations, and interviews with the operator regarding trade, profit, and operational matters unfeasible.

Although scheduled to give evidence as Expert Witnesses this week, the case was settled, obviating the need for our attendance in court.

Subsequent to the settlement, our instructing legal client expressed satisfaction with the professional services rendered by CivicMJD over the course of this matter, stating: “We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for assisting our clients with your expertise and time over the last 18 months. We appreciate the effort and skill that was deployed in your expert report, and the expert conferral late last year. It really made a difference.”

12 February 2024