The original flat top wooden railing on on the seaward side of Whitsunday Terraces balconies were starting to fail by 2003. Even with repeated painting, treated timber exposed to sea breezes and tropical rain does not last decades. Repairs were taking more and more time and effort.
It took a concerted effort and a lot of funding over nine years. However by 2012, every major balcony rail throughout the resort had been replaced with powder coated aluminium. This is a wonderful and welcome improvement.
The pale blue seaward side wooden balcony rails were replaced at around the same time as the general painting, in late 2003. The original rails were made of wide timber, and blocked a considerable amount of the view over Airlie Beach and Pioneer Bay for those seated inside the units. They did however provide more privacy for those inside.
The replacement was a bolder blue, powder coated tubular aluminium balustrade. This metal rail generally requires less maintenance, something that was becoming increasingly important for containing rising costs for labour.
The darker colour of the railings also tends to blend well into the background when looking through the rails at a distant sea view over the Whitsundays. A lighter colour tends to distract from the beautiful view over the Whitsunday Islands from the balconies. This was seen as particularly important since the new balcony rails had to be taller due to changed building regulations. The more open nature of the railings did decrease privacy within the rooms, however no other buildings overlook Whitsunday Terraces rooms.
New balcony rails partially installed
Balcony safety was not a feature of installation
The original horizontal wooden rails presented a climbing hazard to young children, as some balconies overlooked a five floor drop into the Whitsunday Terraces atrium areas. Although this design was permitted at the time of installation, regulations had changed.
Changed regulations on balcony rail heights also meant that the new balcony rails had to be slightly higher. This led to some silly looking features, such as the very low balcony rail on top of the concrete ends of each balcony. It was basically a matter of having to obey the rules for heights of rails.
There was also an element of risk reduction for adult tourists. Some young men, especially when drunk, were prone to standing on top of the fairly wide flat wooden balcony rails. As far as anyone knows, this idiocy has not been attempted on the tubular balcony rails.
An admiring audience of cockatoos stand on railing
Why Did It Take So Long to Start?
This railing replacement was a massive operation, and it took several years before it could start. It is also a rolling replacement, in that every wooden railing in the Whitsunday Terraces had to be replaced. Eventually even the least damaged wooden railings, under buildings where they are more protected from the elements.
Body Corporate committee started with the most damaged type of railing (seaward side of balconies), and continued to work their way through the entire Whitsunday Terraces.
Due to the nature of regulations, only limited repairs can be made, before you have to replace. However you can not just replace an existing wooden railings with an identical one, as it will not meet the changed safety regulations. So there is a balancing act in scheduling complete replacement. The cost (and disruption to normal tourism) is such that it is not possible to replace every railing in the Whitsunday Terraces in the same job.
There were issues with finding a suitable contractor for this first stage, and issues in the supply of the railings. All of these delayed the start. Similar issues continue to delay the completion of the further replacement work.
Because contractors had to turn each building parking lot into a construction site in turn, tourist and even resident access had to be restricted. This reduced both the rooms available and the parking that was available. Resort Management had to schedule room availability around the builder's schedule. Builders can not always meet their schedules.
Balcony Tile Fixing Still Not Complete
In 2003, Lot owners were assured that balcony floor tiling would be restored under the now removed support brackets for the original wooden railings. The idea was to have the resort handyman use salvaged tiles to fix the few places where metal footings had been removed. This typically involved a half dozen tiles per Lot. The resort handyman had a collection of original tiles removed from other jobs for this repair. While many of the rental units were repaired, this was not the case for all the units.
At the Whitsunday Terraces Body Corporate committee meeting dated 22 January 2005, the Building Manager advised that damaged tiles where old balustrade had been removed will be repaired gradually.
This matter was raised again at again at the Committee meeting on 17 June 2005. Railings and balustrades damaged tiles to be repaired (Lot 9WT), and audit of all balconies to repair tiles.
I would like to know why this was still not completed?
What Comes Next?
Body Corporate committee attempted to have all the other wooden rails replaced, building by building. This idea turned out not to be possible.
The next major works became the exposed railings on stairs and walkways above the car park level. Being most exposed, these were also next to fail. In addition, doing these next presented a much better appearance for tourists arriving at the Whitsunday Terraces. Body Corporate committee reluctantly delayed whole building replacement of railings to concentrate on balustrades above the car park level.
The balustrade replacement work was completed in 2012.