Australia Victorian Government bans high-risk cladding for new multi-storey buildings in 'world first'

22:27  31 january  2021
22:27  31 january  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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a person standing in front of a building: The Victorian Government says the banned cladding products can be © Provided by ABC NEWS The Victorian Government says the banned cladding products can be "high risk" when installed incorrectly. (ABC News: James Glenday)

A ban on cladding deemed by the Victorian Government to be high risk comes into force today in a bid to reduce fire hazards.

Victoria's Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne, announced that flammable aluminium composite panels and rendered expanded polystyrene would be banned for use as external wall cladding for all multi-storey developments into the future.

"These products are a high risk when used inappropriately or installed incorrectly. That's why we've acted to ban them for new multi-storey buildings," he said in a statement.

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"This ban will ensure new developments are built to the highest standard to keep Victorians safe."

The prohibited materials will not be allowed for use on apartment buildings, hotels, aged care facilities and other residential buildings with two or more storeys.

The ban also applies to office buildings, retail premises such as shopping centres, warehouses, factories and car parks with three or more storeys.

"We're continuing to act on the most up-to-date expert advice on cladding products, and anyone caught flouting this ban will face significant penalties," Mr Wynne said.

Building companies that breach the ban will be fined up to $400,000, to be enforced by the Victorian Building Authority.

Individuals can be fined up to $80,000.

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Mr Wynne called on other states and territories to take a co-ordinated, national response to the issue.

"We would've hoped of course that other states, particularly up the eastern seaboard, would've followed us and I've tried to persuade my colleagues in other states who've also got this problem of combustible cladding to join us but unfortunately they've been unwilling to do so," he said.

Mr Wynne said he expects the building industry to fully embrace the changes.

"We don't expect any backlash at all from the building industry more generally because we have consulted very widely and industry absolutely understands the critical importance of ensuring that we put up buildings that are clearly safe."

The Victorian Government said a cost-benefit analysis found the ban would result in a net economic benefit of around $1 million per year in reduced insurance costs.

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The flammable properties of aluminium composite cladding was blamed for the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire in London that killed 72 people.

Cladding has been a major headache for Victoria as well as other jurisdictions across Australia.

Insurance companies have stopped giving surveyors personal indemnity coverage for properties with cladding.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has previously declared it a "national problem".

The Andrews Government announced a $600 million Cladding Rectification Program in July 2019 to reduce hazardous cladding on existing buildings, which Mr Wynne said was a "world first".

Cladding Safety Victoria was established to oversee the process.

An audit of more than 2,200 buildings in Victoria found cladding on hundreds of buildings posed a safety risk, including an "extreme risk" in 72 cases.

Consumer Advocacy organisation, The Victorian Building Action Group, has said that $600 million is not enough to fix the problem of cladding in the state.

The Opposition's planning spokesman, Tim Smith, estimates the real cost of removing cladding on buildings in Victoria is upwards of $2 billion.

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