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‘Sensible and overdue’: Vic gov’t announces $600m package to fix ‘high-risk’ cladding

The Victorian government has announced it will establish a new agency and a $600 million fund to rectify buildings with “high-risk” cladding.

Cladding Safety Victoria, to be established initially within the Victorian Building Authority, will manage the funding and work with owners corporations to ensure buildings are safe and compliant with all building regulations.

The government will provide $300 million to the fund, while the remainder will be raised over the next five years by introducing changes to the building permit levy.

The fund will be used for the rectification of hundreds of buildings found to have high-risk cladding. The Victorian Cladding Taskforce, working with the Victorian Building Authority, has identified 15 buildings that will need to have their cladding fixed first.

“This world-first program will fix the buildings most at risk and keep Victorians safe,” said premier Daniel Andrews.

The new agency is one of 37 recommendations from the Victorian Cladding Taskforce’s final report, released the same day as the government’s announcement.

The taskforce also recommended that the Victorian government seek a contribution from the Commonwealth government for the cladding rectification.

“Combustible cladding is a national problem and we want the Federal Government to be part of the solution here in Victoria,” the premier said.

The government also announced it will conduct a review of the Building Act to identify how the legislation might be amended to strengthen the system and consumer protections.

The Australian Institute of Architects welcomed the announcement. Victorian chapter president Amy Muir said it was a “sensible and overdue step.”

“Victoria has set the benchmark and now it is time for other states and territories to take similar action in a nationally consistent manner with support from the Commonwealth Government,” Muir said.

“We welcome these practical measures to replace combustible cladding and fix buildings to ensure safety and compliance with all building regulations. This work had to be done and we are relieved to see the Victorian Government stepping up and getting on with the job.”

The Institute reiterated its repeated calls for the full implementation of the Shergold-Weir report Building Confidence which outlined 24 recommendations to reform the building industry.

“Ahead of this week’s Building Ministers’ Forum, it is imperative there is national action on flammable cladding and other urgent safety issues,” Muir said.

“Jurisdictions know what they need to do. Community safety and confidence is paramount and it is being put at risk when these vital reforms are delayed.”

The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) also welcomed the government’s announcement of the package and proposed legislative review.

“The regulatory system needs modernization and firmer measures to protect owners and residents in the face of the culture, commercial drivers and growing complexity of some parts of the building industry,” said Sue Eddy, chief executive of VBA.

“This announcement enables thousands of Victorians to commence the cladding rectification process, making their buildings and homes safe and compliant.”

The VBA has inspected more than 2,000 properties, and so far found 900 buildings that need to be rectified to some degree. A further 500 sites will be inspected in the next 12 months.

The Victorian Cladding Taskforce also recommended “that all practitioners be required to undertake compulsory Continuing Professional Development on the National Construction Code” – a recommendation shared by the Shergold Weir report.

Other recommendations include:

  • that the Victorian Government consider introducing a statutory duty of care on building practitioners to protect occupants and consumers.
  • that the Victorian Government give consideration to the restoration of the role of the clerk of works as part of its long-term reform strategy for the construction industry.
  • that the Victorian Government implement a process to seek recovery of costs of rectification from responsible parties.
  • that the Victorian Government negotiate with insurers to make a substantial contribution to the cost of rectification.

The full final report from the taskforce can be read here.

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