Over 400 blocks identified with high-risk cladding in NSW

A total of 435 high-rise buildings at “potentially high risk” from flammable cladding fires, have been identified by the NSW state government and Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW), according to a press release from Minister Matt Kean.

Owners in any of those buildings over six years old will now be legally obliged to pay themselves to have the cladding removed and replaced.

Newer blocks, under six years old, will have the opportunity to force their developers to replace the cladding … and hope they don’t just go in to liquidation rather than pay their bills.

Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Matt Kean announced today that 22,500 hours of work had gone into inspecting buildings across NSW, suspected of having dangerous cladding.

 Mr Kean said it was part of the overwhelming response by the NSW Government, to keep families as safe as possible, following the tragic Grenfell fire in London last year.

“Our whole of Government response to the issue of dangerous cladding has been more comprehensive than any other state in Australia,” Mr Kean said.

Is this true? Unlike Victoria, NSW has so far failed to offer financial relief to apartment owners faced with crippling bills that will typically run into tens of thousands of dollars for each owner.

Victoria announced a plan earlier this year whereby owners could get state loans to cover cladding replacement, then pay them off through their rates.

We asked the minister’s department how much time and effort ias being put into helping apartment owners deal with the horrendous costs of replacing the cladding, as they are now obliged to do, thanks to the government’s outstanding efforts in identifying buildings with cladding on them.

We also asked how they were going with tracking down and holding to account the developers and builders who installed the dangerous cladding in the first place.

We didn’t even get an acknowledgement that we’d asked the question. Waht we do know is that the main effort has been in identifying the blocks at risk.

“185,000 buildings have been reviewed by the Cladding Taskforce since the multi-agency group was established a year ago,’ Mr Kean continued in the press release.

“We’ve also sent out 33,000 letters to building owners, residents and local councils, and passed tough new laws banning unsafe building products.”

Mr Kean said Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) have inspected more than 2,300 buildings, with 435 of those identified as potentially high-risk.

“FRNSW has visited every one of these buildings in the last 12 months, and drawn up rapid response plans to be used in the event of a fire,” Mr Kean said.

“It’s taken around 22,500 hours so far – more than 1,800 hours a month or 430 hours a week, with teams working five days a week to complete the task.”

Mr Kean said as well as FRNSW’s efforts, there are a number of key requirements in NSW buildings that were not mandatory in Grenfell, including:

  • Sprinklers for buildings over 25 metres;
  • Pressurised fire stairs for buildings over 25 metres;
  • A second fire escape for buildings over 25 metres; and
  • Wet-rise style fire hydrants that contain pressurised water. Grenfell had a dry-rise system that became clogged with rubbish.

“Because of our efforts and these building standards, I’m confident we can avoid a tragedy similar to what we saw in Grenfell. We will continue doing everything possible to keep NSW residents safe,” said Mr Kean.

Apart, it seems, from finding the people responsible for the cladding and making them pay for its replacement.

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