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Deadly cladding on 2500 Sydney buildings

The document, obtained by The Australian and marked “in confidence”, says preliminary data using “various methodologies” estimates that 1800 buildings in metropolitan Sydney could contain the material, but warns it could be as high as 2500.

The note formed part of the agenda papers for a September 10, 2015, meeting of NSW Planning and Environment officials.

It reveals the department was aware of the potentially high number of buildings containing the deadly cladding one month before it told the state opposition that it was “not possible to identity how many buildings contain the affected material”.

The department refused to confirm the details of the briefing note yesterday and referred questions to NSW Fair Trading, which responded with: “There have been no reported incidents or complaints related to the use of this material in buildings in NSW.”

The revelation comes only one day after Victoria’s building regulator, the Victorian Building Authority, released the shock ­results of an audit of Melbourne buildings which showed more than half of the city’s high-rise towers contained the highly flammable and non-complaint cladding, much of it imported cheaply from China.

The same type of cladding is believed responsible for dozens of deaths in high-rise apartments overseas, and was recently blamed for the dramatic New Year’s Eve fire at a luxury Dubai skyscraper. It was also responsible for a November 2014 fire at the Lacrosse Tower in Melbourne’s high-density Docklands precinct.

Since the fire, 312 apartment owners in the 23-storey Lacrosse Tower have been ordered to rip off and replace the non-compliant material within the next 12 months and will be forced to bear the estimated $40 million cost themselves.

The result of the VBA audit has sent shockwaves through the state’s booming apartment ­investment community and Australia’s billion-dollar strata industry. The general manager of Strata Community Australia (Victoria), Rob Beck, warned the cost of the crisis could top $40 billion in Victoria alone, with owners being forced to pay to have the cladding replaced.

He said strata property owners in Victoria were now in ­“crisis” due to the issue and called on the state government to mitigate the risks of building defects for investors and owners.

He said tens of thousands of “innocent” property owners would now be liable to rectify non-compliant cladding out of their own pocket, when they had nothing to do with the non-compliance in the first place.

State government building ministers will meet on the Gold Coast tomorrow to discuss the cladding issue.

At the last Building Ministers Forum in July, a national working group of senior government officers and building industry representatives was established to report back on strategies to deal with the growing use of unsafe construction products.

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