Victoria’s Response to Cladding Discussed at Industry Forum

Industry forum highlights the complications associated with determining who should bear the cost of rectifying buildings with combustible cladding

Victorian Building Authority CEO Sue Eddy joined the Co-Chairs of the Victorian Cladding Taskforce, former Victorian Premier, Ted Baillieu, and former Victorian Deputy Premier, John Thwaites, at an industry forum on cladding in February organised by the Victorian Division of the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA).

Messrs Baillieu and Thwaites made keynote presentations, before a wide-ranging panel discussion was held with Mr Baillieu, Ms Eddy, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s Director of Building, Trevor Pisciotta, and Managing Director of Hickory, Michael Argyrou.

The event highlighted the complications associated with determining who should bear the cost of rectifying buildings with combustible cladding.

Ted Baillieu said that the issue of cladding demands an immediate response to ensure public safety. His recommendation is that the Victorian Government find the at-risk buildings and fix them within the confines of Victoria’s existing financial and legal structure, which puts the onus on the property owner to pay for rectification.

According to the Victorian Cladding Taskforce, several factors have led to the widespread non-compliant use of cladding, which includes the supply and marketing of inappropriate building materials, variations and inconsistent interpretation of regulations and codes, competitive commercial pressures which incentivise shortcuts, inadequate enforcement, poor assurance mechanisms, and a general complacency or blind spot to risk by industry.

Given the wide range of contributing factors linked with the use of non-compliant combustible cladding, the UDIA forum sparked much debate about who should pay to make at-risk buildings safe.

During the discussion, Ms Eddy shared insights from the government’s cladding audit program.

“The assertion that buildings are only being declared retrospectively non-compliant does not stack up against the evidence the VBA has gathered through its audit program,” said Ms Eddy at the event.

The VBA started inspecting priority buildings before Christmas as part of the Victorian Cladding Audit.

“The industry is facing a complex issue in having to assess compliance retrospectively against new clarifications and regulations,” said Michael Argyrou.

“We look forward to the government showing leadership in assessing the problem and creating a solution that fairly and reasonably addresses the issue of who will pay to rectify non-compliant buildings,” he said.

“Regardless of what materials are used on your building, now is a good time to review the fire safety features and procedures for your building,” said Mr Baillieu at the forum.

(Sources: VBA and UDIA)