The Victorian Government is establishing a world-first program to tackle high-risk cladding through by way of a $600 million package to fix buildings with combustible cladding.
The grants will fund rectification works on hundreds of buildings, found to have high-risk cladding, to make sure they’re safe and compliant with all building regulations.
The program will be overseen by a new agency, Cladding Safety Victoria, which will manage funding and work with owners corporations from start to finish.
The Victorian Government will directly fund half of the rectification works and will introduce changes to the building permit levy to raise the other $300 million over the next five years.
Rectification of buildings with high-risk cladding and the establishment of a dedicated cladding agency were key recommendations from the final report from the Victorian Cladding Taskforce.
The Taskforce was established by the Government in 2017 to identify how many buildings had combustible cladding and potential solutions to fix them.
The Taskforce has also recommended the Victorian Government seek a contribution from the Commonwealth to help fund rectification, as combustible cladding is a national problem.
The Taskforce, headed by former Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu and former Deputy Premier John Thwaites, has worked with the Victorian Building Authority to identify 15 buildings that will have their cladding fixed first.
Work on these high-risk buildings will begin in the coming weeks, and Cladding Safety Victoria will also be contacting owners corporations and property owners shortly, starting with those whose buildings are at the greatest risk.
The government will also review the state’s Building Act to identify what legislative change is needed to strengthen the system and better protect consumers.
In Queensland, the government has been conducting a “Safer Buildings Combustible Cladding Checklist program”, which has cleared almost 14,000 private buildings, confirming they’re safe and secure for tenants and workers.
The program, established in 2018, was designed to ensure all Queensland buildings meet safety requirements regarding building material use and provide occupants a ‘right to know’ if their home or workplace doesn’t pass the test.
Under the program, conducted in three parts, almost 14,000 private building combustible cladding assessments have already been completed and cleared, with two more years to go until the completion of the entire audit program.
Minister for Housing and Public Works Mick de Brenni said that, to date, under Part 1 of the program, 13,715 registrants out of 20,380 successfully completed the audit at zero cost. The remaining 5026 registrants in the program will take Part 2 to rule out that the building is clad in combustible material.
“This program was designed to crack down on careless use of building materials that put lives at risk, and building occupants have a right to know if their building is at risk,” said Minister de Brenni.
“After several fires in other states, the Commonwealth commissioned a national review that identified failure to comply with fire engineering guidelines had become a serious issue over many years, confirming that the Queensland process was indeed required.
“The Shergold Weir Review showed that a minority in the building industry had failed to follow the rules and was putting lives at risk.”
Minister de Brenni said the building materials sector had worked hard to ensure that information about the safe use of materials was made available to consumers and builders.
“Building materials, when used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions are safe – that’s why manufacturers publish details of how they should be used. These details must be available and are usually easily identified on the manufacturer’s website.
Minister de Brenni said that Part 2 of the Safer Buildings program will give building owners until 29 May 2019 to seek professional advice to confirm if their building meets the Safer Buildings guidelines.
“We will not risk discovering the next unlawful use of combustible cladding through a loss of Queenslanders lives in a high rise building fire like those overseas,” he said.
“Building owners who already know or suspect they have combustible cladding on their building are able to progress directly to Part 3 of the program, saving the cost of engaging a building industry professional.”