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Flammable cladding plus battery charging equals ‘ticking time bomb’ 

Strata Community Association Queensland says about 800 buildings across the state are still riddled with dangerous flammable cladding, and the risk is heightened by increased use of electric vehicles, bikes and scooters.

The peak body is calling on the state government to “stop passing the buck” before lives are lost.

The risks of flammable cladding, which has been used widely due to its low cost and insulation properties, were exposed by London’s devastating Grenfell Tower disaster, which killed more than 70 people in 2017.

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Australian states embarked on a range of rectification programs, but the SCAQ says the Queensland government “continues to stall on providing the support and services”.

GM Laura Bos says the situation is “a potential ticking time bomb”, especially given the rising popularity of electric vehicles, lithium-ion batteries and charging systems, which have been earmarked as significant fire risks.

“We recently saw news reports of a unit explosion in New Farm that was caused by a charging electric scooter,” she said. “In this case the building was brick, but it’s only a matter of time before we face a similar issue in a building that features combustible material. If that happens, lives could well be lost.”

Ms Bos says the government has completed mitigation work on public buildings “but continues to hold the line that rectification of private buildings is an issue for private owners”.

“What this position fails to acknowledge is that these people did nothing wrong,” she said. “They bought in good faith into buildings that had been approved by the state government.

“Those who can afford to fix the issue have done so, but those who can’t are drawn from the ranks of some of society’s most vulnerable members. Does the government really feel it’s OK to remedy the issue for some people but not everyone?” 

Ms Bos says the “known risk” around cladding is having a “tangible impact” in driving up insurance premiums.

SCAQ wants Queensland to mirror the ACT’s Private Building Cladding Scheme, which offers low-interest loans for combustible cladding removal and replacement.

“We’re looking for a hand-up for people, not a handout,” Ms Bos said. “It’s about acknowledging that this is a critical safety issue and the government needs to take definitive action.”

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