NSW owners of apartments in flammable cladding affected buildings may have cast envious eyes in the direction of Victoria, where the state government has promised to help pay for the removal and replacement the potentially deadly material from high-rises.
In stark contrast, the NSW government has issued a “not our problem” pledge to contribute nothing, except notices to affected buildings telling them they need to fix it pronto.
However, apartment residents over the border are less than impressed with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ pledge of $600 million to fix half of the 1000-plus buildings in Victoria with flammable cladding, saying it is welcome news for some ‘lucky’ owners. They claim that half the amount doesn’t exist – it was to come from Federal government but they have refused – and half of the remainder has already been allocated to governnment buildings.
“We are very pleased that Premier Andrews is attempting to start a national conversation on rectifying the cladding issues that plague apartment living,” says Barbara Francis, director of residents’ group We Live Here.
“However the actual amount in the Victorian Cladding Fund for fixing private buildings has been inflated. One wonders if this was more of an attempt to reassure potential new purchasers of apartments to prop up the confidence of the real estate market, rather than a proposal to assist current owners of apartments with pre-existing cladding issues.”
In a scathing assessment of the Victorian government’s proposal, We Live Here – the peak group for Victorian apartment owners – issued a press release last week taking issue with three main points in the government announcement.
Here’s the rest of the press release, unedited:
1.The policy response is not a ‘World-first’ as claimed. Outgoing UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced in May 2019 that the UK government would allocate 200 million pounds for a cladding fund to address the flammable cladding issue in that country, and is estimated to pay for the rectification of half of Britain’s affected apartment buildings.
Therefore, when Daniel Andrew’s announced a ‘World-First initiative’, perhaps what he meant to say was ‘an Australian-first initiative.’
2. In addition, half of the $600 million pledge for the cladding fund is proposed to come from the Federal Government. However, Federal Industry Minister Karen Andrews flatly rejected Mr Andrews’ long-distance supplication.
“The Commonwealth is not an ATM for the states. So no, this problem is of the states’ making and they need to step up and fix the problem and dig into their own pockets,’ Ms Andrews told Radio National.
Therefore, perhaps the fund for the rectification of Victorian buildings is only $300 million.
3. A further point is that $150.3 million (or just over half of the actual Cladding fund) has already been allocated for the rectification of State-owned buildings, according to the 2019 – 2020 Budget.
Therefore, the true scale of the announcement has perhaps been somewhat amplified.
The announcement by the Victorian government follows the release of the ‘final report’ of the Victorian Cladding Taskforce, headed by former Liberal premier Ted Baillieu and former Labor deputy premier Prof. John Thwaites.
The state government now has plans for “risk-tiering” to be applied to determine who gets the golden tickets to have the rectification costs covered.
The Cladding Taskforce deemed 1,069 buildings as having cladding that is a ‘risk to life’. Of the 1,069 buildings classified as dangerous by the Cladding Taskforce:
- 72 are rated as an extreme risk
- 409 are rated a high risk
- 388 are rated a moderate risk and
- 200 are rated low risk
What rating is your building? Good luck trying to find out, because the webpage of the government’s newly established agency Cladding Safety Victoria gives scant information, saying simply:
To be eligible for assistance from Cladding Safety Victoria, your privately owned [sic] apartment building must first be assessed as part of the Statewide Cladding Audit, led by the Victorian Building Authority.
That’s the site’s whole page on eligibility…So you’ll have to go into the lottery to find out if you win a prize.
Mr Andrews expects his Cladding Safety Victoria fund to remediate the cladding issues for the top 500 dangerously clad buildings in Victoria.
Instead, the Premier has made a media-release appeal to the federal government for matched funding. It seems to be a bid to cover the tens of thousands affected apartment- owners who, as it stands, will miss out.
“There needs to be a true national partnership to put community safety first, to rectify these most dangerous buildings,” the Premier said.
It seems to be a clever buck-passing move by Andrews, promising to fix 50% of the problem and blaming Canberra for not being able to fix the whole problem.