Update on the Fire Safety and External Wall Cladding Taskforce

The inter-agency Fire Safety and External Wall Cladding Taskforce (the Cladding Taskforce) was established in June 2017 as part of the NSW Government's ongoing work to address fire safety risks associated with external wall cladding.

The Cladding Taskforce comprises representatives from the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation (DFSI) including Fair Trading, the NSW Data Analytics Centre (DAC), the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE), Fire & Rescue NSW (FRNSW), the Office of Local Government (OLG), Treasury and the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC).

The Cladding Taskforce takes fire safety very seriously and has worked to address concerns over fire safety risks arising from the use of aluminium cladding on buildings in NSW. Since the last update on 15 December 2017, the Taskforce has continued to make progress on the initiatives under the NSW Government’s 10-point fire safety plan:

  • Proposed amendments to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation were released for public consultation, which closed on 16 February 2018. The proposed amendments will require owners of buildings with combustible external wall cladding to make a declaration to the NSW Government and ensure an independent fire safety assessment is carried out. In consultation with affected stakeholders, the NSW Government intends to finalise and implement these amendments as a priority in the coming months.
  • Fire & Rescue NSW has completed inspections of all 1,184 sites identified in the Cladding Taskforce’s initial audit, to determine whether the cladding present requires further assessment. In total, Fire & Rescue NSW has assessed over 1,500 sites identified through the initial audit, as well as analysis of building approvals by the Department of Planning and Environment, and visual observations by Fire & Rescue NSW.
  • The previous Taskforce update in December 2017 noted that 220 buildings, including 58 high-rise residential buildings, had been confirmed to have cladding that required further assessment.  As at 12 March 2018, a total of 412 buildings have been identified as requiring further assessment as a high priority because they have cladding in a quantity, location and/or arrangement which potentially increases fire risks.  A total of 170 of the 412 buildings are 'residential' buildings ('residential' refers to Class 2 or 3 buildings).  53 of the residential buildings are 'high-rise' ('high-rise' refers to buildings of more than 8 storeys).
  • Where Fire & Rescue NSW identified sites with cladding requiring further assessment, it has written to all local councils requesting their authorised fire officers inspect each affected building, and to report back on the outcome of their inspections. Councils are now undertaking these inspections and reporting back to Fire & Rescue NSW. Fire & Rescue is considering the responses received and is continuing to work with Councils to finalise the reports for consideration by the Taskforce. For other buildings that were approved by the Department of Planning and Environment, DPE is issuing notices requiring owners to undertake further investigations.
  • It is important to remember that just because the buildings requiring further assessment have cladding does not mean that they are unsafe. This is why FRNSW, working within the Cladding Taskforce, is requiring councils to do further inspections.
  • The Taskforce co-ordinated a state-wide advertising campaign during February 2018, designed to raise awareness and encourage residents and owners of residential apartment buildings to ensure all necessary building fire safety assessments have been carried out. Information about the campaign is available at cladding.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au
  • The Cladding Taskforce is overseeing reviews of government-owned or leased buildings by all Departmental Secretaries. The heads of all agencies were requested in July 2017 to take immediate action to assess and, if needed, remedy any fire safety issues arising from the presence of cladding. Secretaries were requested to act to ensure all cluster properties are verified as fire safe as they relate to cladding. The review and any required action is ongoing.

For more information on cladding and fire safety, visit cladding.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au.

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