Victorian Government Forks Out to Replace Combustible Claddings

The Victorian state government has pledged funding to remove combustible cladding from privately owned buildings.

On Tuesday, the Andrews government announced its plan to fund rectification upfront and seek damages from those responsible at a later date.

In June, Premier Daniel Andrews stated that he would use taxpayer dollars to pay for replacements to flammable panels, making Victoria the first state to do so. 

Instead of being overseen by the building industry regulator, Victorian Building Authority, the process will be overseen by a new body called Cladding Safety Victoria. 

The combustible panels are now at the centre of two class actions against manufacturers and suppliers. Victoria is the state with the highest number of privately owned buildings with combustible cladding, which have been in use across the country for over two decades.

It is believed that over 900 buildings are affected nationwide.

The Victorian government was also responsible for at least one residential building with combustible panels. Together with Places Victoria, it had developed a 200-unit tower in the Melbourne suburb of Coburg.

The combustible cladding has rendered many recently built apartments unsalable, threatening property values and potentially the property market.

Some have attributed the widespread use of such claddings to the government’s failure to warn builders about the dangers. 

The panels are made of aluminium composite with a 100% polyethylene core. Aluminium composite panels were responsible for the Grenfell Tower disaster in London, a 2017 fire that caused 72 deaths. 

Aluminium composite panels have also been linked to a fire at the Lacrosse and Neo 200 residential towers in the Melbourne CBD.

According to documents obtained by the Australian Financial Review under the freedom of information act, ACT and NSW fire authorities warned of the dangers of combustible panels with state and territory building regulators and the Australian Building Code Board in 2008. Regulators took no action and the panels remained on sale until 2013.

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