The devastating Grenfell Tower fire in London in June 2017 is one of the most horrifying examples of how flammable cladding can be. In Australia, it sparked the discussion for government intervention for a nationwide replacement of combustible cladding. More recently, the Neo 200 apartment building fire on Spencer Street in Melbourne came as a reminder of how fire danger waits for no one.
The NSW Cladding Taskforce was established in June 2017. According to recent figures, they have since performed a total of 4127 inspections, cleared 3738 buildings, and are currently reviewing, assessing, or remediating an additional 289 buildings (NSW Government, 2020). As an advisory committee to the task force, the Cladding Product Safety Panel was formed in July of this year. Their responsibility is to provide expert advice on suitable cladding replacement, and rectification work.
Unlike Victoria, NSW has yet to announce a willingness to fund the rectification work. This puts financial pressure on the individual homeowners who are liable for the replacement of classified combustible cladding. While the Cladding Product Safety Panel is under development, the lack of information on suitable cladding replacement prevents homeowners to act.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 2020, recently discussed the worrying topic of Sydney firefighting resources and the growing data of buildings with combustible cladding. The fire department stretches thin as multiple high-rise buildings require an “upgraded response”. Meanwhile, the property owners in question sit and wait for expert advice regarding the rectification work required.
We see positive steps aimed at improving construction work across NSW. The Residential Apartment Buildings (Compliance and Enforcement Powers) Act 2020 (NSW) (link to the blog post about developer’s legislation) which came into force 1 September 2020, is a major step towards a safer property market. There is no time to waste when it comes to improving fire safety in NSW and Australia, and we hope that the Cladding Product Safety Panel is equipped to support homeowners in the removal of unsafe cladding, in the near future.