In an effort to repair buildings built with high risk cladding, the Victorian government has announced the establishment of a new agency and a $600 million fund related to this issue.
Cladding Safety Victoria, operated initially under the auspices of the Victorian Building Authority, will manage the funding and collaborate with owners’ corporations to guarantee that buildings are constructed in a way that is safe and in compliance with any and all building regulations.
The government will supply $300 million to the fund, while the rest will be generated throughout the next five years with the introduction of changes to the building permit levy.
The fund will cover the repair of hundreds of structures found to contain high-risk cladding. The Victorian Cladding Taskforce, in cooperation with the Victorian Building Authority, has identified 15 buildings that are in greatest need of cladding repair.
Premier Daniel Andrews promises that this world-first program will rectify the highest risk buildings and ensure the safety of Victorians.
The new agency has been established in accordance with one of 37 recommendations culled from the Victorian Cladding Taskforce’s final report, which was released on the same day as the government’s announcement.
The taskforce also advised the Victorian government to solicit a contribution from the Commonwealth government to cover the cladding repair—thus making the government part of the solution.
The government also stated that it will complete a review of the Building Act, identifying as to how the legislation might be changed to strengthen the system and reinforce consumer protections.
The Australian Institute of Architects approved of the announcement, with Victorian chapter president Amy Muir calling it a sensible and overdue move. She called for other states and territories to follow suit and take similar actions, in the interest of citizen safety and confidence in the building industry.
The Institute also once again called for the complete implementation of the Shergold-Weir report Building Confidence, which put forth 24 recommendations intended to change the building industry.
The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) also approved the government’s announced package and proposed legislative review.
Sue Eddy, chief executive of VBA, said that the regulatory system needs to be modernized to protect building owners and residents and make their buildings more cladding compliant.
The VBA has inspected more than 2,000 properties, finding 900 buildings that need some amount of repair. An additional 500 sites will be inspected in the next year.
The Victorian Cladding Taskforce also recommended all practitioners complete compulsory Continuing Professional Development regarding the National Construction Code – a recommendation also outlined in the Shergold Weir report.
It also was recommended that the Victorian Government impose a statutory duty of care on building practitioners, in order to protect occupants and consumers; consider the restoration of the role of the clerk of works as a component of its long-term reform strategy for the building industry; administer a process to seek recovery of costs of rectification from responsible parties; and negotiate with insurers to contribute substantially to the cost of cladding repair.