Update on the Fire Safety and External Wall Cladding Taskforce

The inter-agency Fire Safety and External Wall Cladding Taskforce (the Cladding Taskforce) continues to take fire safety seriously and has worked to address fire safety risks arising from the use of aluminium cladding on buildings in NSW.

In order to provide certainty for homeowners and residents across the state, Taskforce members have undertaken an audit of multi-story residential buildings in NSW, with outcomes including:

  • Since the Cladding Taskforce was established in June 2017, it immediately commenced an extensive audit program. Since then, more than 185,000 building projects around the State have been reviewed.
  • More than 33,000 letters have been sent or hand delivered to building owners, residents and local Councils. These letters were sent to the owners of identified buildings to provide information about risk reduction and the engagement of suitable fire safety practitioners to undertake assessments of building fire safety. Letters were also delivered to all occupants of residential buildings identified as having a potentially higher risk. Local Councils were also made aware of all identified buildings in their local Government area.
  • FRNSW has spent well over 23,000 hours inspecting buildings suspected of having cladding.
  • As at 12 February 2019, 447 buildings have been identified by the NSW Cladding Taskforce as requiring further assessment as a high priority because they appear to have cladding in a quantity or configuration that may pose an increased risk to occupants and fire fighters in the event of a fire.  For this reason, these buildings have been rated as higher risk. It should be noted that the rating of a building as ‘high risk’ does not equate to a determination that the building is in breach of state regulations.
  • As at 12 February 2019, at least 2,495 buildings have been inspected by FRNSW. The Fire & Rescue NSW Commissioner has formally referred 421 buildings to local councils to undertake inspections and assessments by authorised officers and report the results to Fire & Rescue NSW. So far 83 buildings referred to local councils have been determined to require no further action. For the remainder, the Taskforce is monitoring and following up councils to ensure they carry out the necessary inspections and assessments of all referred buildings as quickly as possible.

The Taskforce has coordinated and overseen a number of significant reforms including:

  • In November 2017, the Building Product (Safety) Act 2017 was passed to stop the unsafe use of dangerous building products.
  • In August 2018, these new laws were used to ban cladding made from aluminium composite panels (ACP) with a core made up of more than 30% polyethylene for certain uses in NSW. The ban extends to external cladding, external wall, external insulation, facade or rendered finish on buildings with certain classifications. More information can be found at https://www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/buying-products-and-services/product-and-service-safety/building-products/aluminium-composite-panel-ban/_nocache  
  • A strata building bond and inspections scheme has been introduced, which from 1 January 2018, requires developers of residential strata buildings over three storeys to lodge a financial bond with NSW Fair Trading equal to two percent of the total contract price for the building work. The bond can be used to pay for any defective building work identified in a final inspection by an independent building inspector.
  • In April 2018, the Home Building Regulation was amended to specify that cladding which is likely to cause a fire safety threat to occupants is classified as a ‘major defect’, and therefore covered for the maximum warranty period of six years. Owners can access NSW Fair Trading’s Dispute Resolution and Inspection service to mediate disputes over alleged defective building work during the warranty period. Fair Trading’s inspectors are able to issue rectification orders to builders if work is deemed defective. 
  • Amendments to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation commenced on 22 October 2018, requiring owners of multi-storey class 2, 3 and 9 buildings with metal composite panels or insulated cladding to register the building with the NSW Government.

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, including Fair Trading, the NSW Data Analytics Centre, the Department of Planning and Environment, Fire & Rescue NSW, the Office of Local Government, Treasury and the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

Further information is available on previous actions and updates from the Taskforce. For more information on cladding and fire safety, visit www.cladding.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au .  

Concerned tenants should contact their managing agent or landlord to find out what action they are taking if their building has been identified as have potentially combustible cladding. Regardless, FRNSW has physically inspected and developed a plan for each of those buildings.

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