‘Disgracefully slow’: Work starts on project to remove flammable cladding
It has, however, ruled out expanding the criteria used to determine buildings eligible for its interest-free loan program, despite the City of Sydney warning that only a quarter of the 290 residential buildings it still has under investigation for flammable cladding will be able to access it.
Work began on Tuesday to remove high-risk cladding from a Darlington apartment building, which is the first of more than 150 in NSW already registered for the government program known as Project Remediate.
Better Regulation Minister Kevin Anderson said he was open to considering assistance for owners of buildings who had already had cladding removed, so long as the work complied with building codes.
To be eligible for the program, residential apartment buildings must be confirmed by the state’s cladding taskforce to have a “high-risk combustible cladding facade” that requires remediation.
Labor MP Courtney Houssos accused the government of being “disgracefully slow” in its response to removing combustible cladding, citing figures showing Victoria had completed 40 buildings while work was underway on 117.
“It’s been more than four years since the Grenfell Tower fire [in London] showed us the fatal consequences of dangerous flammable cladding,” she said.
Mr Anderson said the government had wanted to ensure it put in place a “safe, strategic, methodical plan, so it was done right the first time”.
Project Remediate provides owners interest-free loans to remove and replace combustible cladding, as well as access to experts and assurance that completed work will be accepted by insurers.
NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler said he wanted the buildings fixed as part of Project Remediate to be “absolutely the same quality all the way through” the program.
Geoff Cliff, who represents owners in the Darlington building known as the Foundry, said the project offered a 10-year-interest-free loan, a design solution, and a guarantee of safe removal of cladding and installation of new material.
“The important thing for us is safety for the building and residents, and the fact that we get to pay it off over a 10-year period,” he said.
He estimated the cost to owners in the 42-unit building of fixing the cladding would total about $300,000. “For a small building, that is a significant amount of money that we are now having to fund for something we thought should have been done correct in the first place,” he said.
So far, 155 buildings in NSW have been registered for the project.
Fire and Rescue NSW Assistant Commissioner Trent Curtin said combustible cladding was an unacceptable risk to residents and firefighters.
“When [firefighters] confront a building with combustible cladding, they can have falling debris coming off the side of the building,” he said.
Earlier this month, councils called for the NSW government to extend assistance beyond multi-storey apartment blocks to other building types which are found to have high-risk cladding.
The City of Sydney told a parliamentary inquiry that the assistance provided as part of the government program “probably is not enough” as it was a limited, loan-based system.