Building defects: In the aftermath of Mascot Towers, how has the industry changed?
It’s been three years since residents in Mascot Towers were forced to evict their homes, leaving many in limbo and cau...
Five years after flames tore through the Grenfell Tower in West London, killing 72 people, the Strata Community Association (SCA) says action taken across Australia to prevent a similar incident is promising but can be improved.
The SCA notes that while many states and territories have begun taking action against combustible cladding, few have finalised their plans – which involve rectification and removal of such dangerous products.
SCA national president Chris Duggan has said that while it is great that each jurisdiction is aware of these issues, only the removal of these dangerous products, which are not paramount to a building’s structural integrity, would eliminate these issues.
“Most jurisdictions have banned the relevant dangerous products, [but] it is important to note that these products were generally used for purely aesthetic reasons and did not enhance the structural integrity of buildings, there is no reason for them to be placed on a building ever again,” Mr Duggan said.
In particular, Mr Duggan commended the work undergone in Victoria and NSW, the nation’s two most populous states.
“In my home state of New South Wales, Project Remediate, a joint venture between the New South Wales Cladding Taskforce and Fire and Rescue New South Wales has audited over 185,000 building records and inspected over 4,000 buildings to date,” he said.
Pleasingly, Mr Duggan said, it is predicted that the rectification of high-risk buildings in NSW will be completed by the end of 2023, a fantastic step forward for the state and Property Council of Australia (PCA). He also commended the Victorian government for its thorough work in solving the threats highlighted by the Grenfell incident.
“The Victorian government has put $600 million on the table through Cladding Safety Victoria and will potentially provide funding for many of the higher risk, class 2 residential buildings authorities have been identified after a state-wide audit,” he said.
“Victoria has a clear 10 step process for rectification, and we hope the roll out of this program continues to go well. The scale of investment by the Victorian government is extremely pleasing to see, and we encourage whoever wins the election later this year down south to build on the progress already made and get every Victorian building resident 100 per cent safe as quickly as possible.”
And while action in Queensland lagged behind the leading states, Mr Duggan was still glad that the issue was at least on the Palaszczuk government’s radar, highlighted by a recent bill on the issue getting passed.
“Queensland Parliament recently passed a bill to make enforcement of current compliance provisions easier, despite this, there is no government program on the horizon as yet to help affected buildings rectify,” he said.
And while Mr Duggan noted that the scale of the issue is nowhere near as large as other regions around Australia, that should not mean that safety measures are not applicable, urging the rest of the nation’s governments to commit to investing in rectifying these issues.
He said the ACT government’s “Private Building Cladding Scheme” is a strong foundation for assessment, but more is needed from the government, including “a rebate increase from the current cap of $20,000 would be welcome”.
Additionally, he called for the new South Australian government to move quickly in investing and rectifying the safety concerns of the 28 buildings identified as threatened in its audit. While Mr Duggan has celebrated Western Australia’s rapid advances in this area have resulted in only a handful of buildings remaining with the dangerous cladding installed.
He concluded that while he is grateful that most national jurisdictions have made amends on the issue of combustible cladding and resident safety, his deepest desire is for all Australian apartment dwellers to be safe from this threat.
“The ultimate solution to this problem in all states is to get these products off affected buildings. It is important and fair that the cost is also minimised to innocent owners and that strata managers are helped navigate the technicalities of this issue,” he said.
“We believe strata will become the dominant form of housing in this country within our lifetimes and we want all jurisdictions to enhance confidence in these buildings by ensuring everyone is safe in them.”
Cladding is a non-loadbearing layer attached to the outside of a home or building to shed water and protect it from the effects of weather.