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Authorities in the dark on use of fire-risk cladding for skyscrapers

State governments and local councils across Australia say they are waiting for an investigation by the Victorian Building Authority, which has been charged with uncovering the use of the substandard material statewide, before determining what action they should take.

The Weekend Australian understands the VBA has no power to compel builders to report the use of the material, and is instead relying on a system of self-reporting.

The VBA has sent a letter to builders and private surveyors asking them to email details of their developments and projects they know or suspect have used aluminium cladding which does not meet Australian safety stand­ards.

There is no deadline on the inves­tigation, no timeline for self-reporting and the authority has no power to force builders or surveyors to admit what material has been used on their projects.

Meanwhile, authorities in NSW, Queensland and New Zealand say they are waiting on the results of the VBA investigation to determine how they will deal with the issue in their own jurisdictions.

The VBA can investigate only an individual building practitioner and only if it has been informed that they have engaged in in­appropriate conduct.

The cladding from China, which does not meet Australian fire-safety standards, was found to have helped spread a fire at the Lacrosse­ tower in Melbourne.

Industry experts say the product has been widely used in Australia’s apartment building sector.

Meanwhile, Westbourne Constructions, builder of an apartment complex in Milsons Point, on Sydney’s north shore, said yesterday it would tear down the substandard Haida cladding which The Australian photographed it installing earlier this week, and would replace it with the high-quality, non-combust­ible Alucobond exterior.

As the controversy over the cladding continued, billionaire apartment developer Harry Triguboff said he expected more government regulation in the wake of the Melbourne fire.

Mr Triguboff, whose Meriton Group builds about 3000 apartments a year, said the number of new developers emerging on the back of Australia’s apartment boom, combined with the rapid proliferation of building products manufacturers in China, increased the risk of unsafe products entering the building sector.

“In China there are so many different manufacturers and we (developers) all use Chinese manu­factures for different products,’’ Mr Triguboff said.

“What happens in 10 years’ time, who knows where these (manufacturers) are? These are the problems the industry has.”

Apartment behemoth Meriton said the cladding it used on its projects met the Australian building code. Lend Lease said it was reviewing all of its apartments and buildings.

Brookfield Multiplex and Crown Group declined to comment, and Mirvac Group did not respond yesterday to a request for a comment.


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