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Liberty Specialty Markets

Nationwide cladding ban: Resistance and frustration

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The Victorian Government is pushing for a national ban on combustible cladding, days after a Melbourne building fire that is believed to have been fuelled by the controversial materials.

Planning Minister Richard Wynne flagged the proposal today at the Building Minister’s Forum in Hobart, and he wants his counterparts and Canberra to back the idea.

“We’ve seen how quickly fires spread up buildings fitted with combustible cladding and we have a responsibility to stamp out these sub-standard building materials,” Mr Wynne said.

“Victoria has pushed for a national response to flammable cladding ever since the 2014 Lacrosse fire, but has been met with frustrating resistance from the Federal Government.

“Given the fire risk and the cost to apartment owners to fix affected buildings, the most commonsense approach is to stop this material from coming in to the country altogether – and we need Federal Government support to make that happen.”

But the suggestion hasn’t gone down well with construction industry stakeholders.

Fire Protection Association Australia CEO Scott Williams calls the proposed ban a “bandaid fix” and “a kneejerk reaction” that doesn’t address the root cause of the problem.

“There is nothing wrong with the product because it can be used in different applications and it’s about making the right decision about the right product on the building,” Mr Williams told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“I guess my response is, if every time somebody fits the wrong product you go and ban the product, where does that end? We can’t keep banning products.”

Mr Williams says a large part of the problem has to do with a lack of enforcement of the building codes. The present codes make it clear that the cladding should not be used in structures higher than three storeys, but they have been used in multi-storey structures in the major cities.

“In the building and construction industry we just don’t seem to have the controls to be able to really ultimately hold the industry to account to achieve the outcomes we need,” he said.

“It’s a discipline issue, it’s a people issue, it’s a surveillance and auditing issue and an enforcement issue – let’s fix that.”

Some of the worst building fires of recent years have been blamed on combustible cladding. Notable blazes linked to the cladding have occurred in Dubai, South Korea, the 2014 Lacrosse blaze in Melbourne and the Grenfell Tower inferno in London in 2017.