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Victoria cracks down over combustible cladding on 1400 buildings

Victoria will take tougher action against use of non-compliant combustible cladding after a state taskforce’s interim report revealed up to 1400 buildings likely feature the material.

“There has been a culture of non-compliance throughout the building sector that has meant combustible cladding has become a widespread material used on multistorey buildings,” taskforce co-chairman John Thwaites said. “This culture has to change.”

None of the buildings identified requires an evacuation order, provided safety measures are put in place while rectification works are completed, the Victorian Government says.

The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) will carry out more inspections, including an audit of state residential buildings, in response to the taskforce’s findings.

It will also be required to inspect up to 10% of buildings each year, up from less than 2%, and the Government says it will appoint a state building inspector with expert technical knowledge.

The state will also restrict the use of aluminium composite panels with a polyethylene core to buildings of two storeys or less.

A Department of Health and Human Services audit has already examined 1100 buildings and identified eight hospitals where non-compliant cladding must be replaced.

Risks associated with cladding continue to be examined across Australia after a fire at London’s Grenfell Tower this year killed more than 70 people. The issue emerged in Melbourne three years ago when cladding fuelled a fire at the Lacrosse apartment tower in Docklands.

Builders of the Lacrosse tower say work will start early next year to replace the non-compliant cladding.

“LU Simon Builders has taken the initiative to replace cladding at the Lacrosse building as a gesture of good faith, so the owners and residents are not inconvenienced any further by the lengthy legal process that is under way,” the company said.

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) has been considering a dispute over responsibility for the issue and will decide how costs are divided between various parties.

“As part of the VCAT action, LU Simon will in turn seek to recover the costs of the replacement works,” the company said.

LU Simon director Jim Moschoyiannis says arrangements with owners and the building surveyor should soon be finalised, allowing for completion of the work by the middle of next year.

The action has been welcomed by the VBA, which has called for further action.

“The VBA encourages LU Simon to make similar undertakings with respect to bringing into compliance the six other buildings identified as part of the VBA audit,” it said.

 In Tasmania, Health Minister Michael Ferguson says cladding on the Launceston General Hospital is non-compliant.

He says a review found no immediate risk to the public and the best option for removing and replacing the cladding, installed before 2013, is being identified.

“I will be acting on this as a priority,” he said.

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