Fire safety and external cladding taskforce updates

9 August 2019

The NSW Government has been working on measures to address the fire safety risks associated with unsafe cladding since January 2015.

The Cladding Taskforce is coordinating the NSW Government’s 10-point plan released in July 2017 to address fire safety risks arising from the use of aluminium cladding on buildings in NSW.

The Taskforce has met over 50 times since its creation, to plan, implement and monitor actions across Government to identify affected buildings, ensure they are inspected, communicate with affected owners, residents and the public, and drive assessments and remediation of buildings.

The Taskforce has also liaised with councils to share information and coordinate action to address cladding risks.

Details of all the Taskforce activities are provided on previous updates on this website.

The Taskforce has worked since July 2017 to identify affected buildings.

As at 24 July 2019, 4,019 buildings in NSW had been identified by the Taskforce as requiring assessment for the potential presence of cladding. Fire & Rescue NSW has inspected every one of those buildings.

  • 754 of these buildings have been assessed as having cladding that does not pose a significant fire safety risk, and a further 2,712 buildings have been assessed as not at risk from cladding.
  • 629 of the buildings were initially assessed as requiring further assessment because they have cladding in a quantity, location and/or arrangement which potentially increases fire risks. Seventy-six (76) of these buildings have been cleared now, with the remaining 553 buildings still undergoing assessment or rectification. 154 of the remaining buildings are residential high rise.
  • These numbers have increased since the previous Taskforce update following amendments to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation that made it compulsory for owners to register certain buildings with cladding via an online portal. Registrations were due by February 2019 for existing buildings, with over 2,000 registrations received to date.
  • Each registration is referred to the relevant local council and Fire and Rescue NSW. Fire and Rescue will continue to inspect any newly registered buildings.
  • The Taskforce has coordinated a review of all government buildings by the responsible government agencies to ensure these buildings are assessed and safe. Out of thousands of buildings and structures assessed, 34 had cladding requiring investigation and remediation. Half of these properties have been rectified and the remaining 17 are undergoing works or planning for rectification.

14 February 2019

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 .

4 June 2018

In July 2017 Minister for Better Regulation, Matt Kean announced the development and implementation of a co-ordinated, whole of government 10-point plan to the use of potentially dangerous cladding in NSW.

The plan included the establishment of the whole of government ‘Fire Safety and External Wall Cladding Taskforce’ to coordinate and roll out the reforms.

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 composite panel (ACP) cladding on buildings in NSW. The taskforce has met 28 times since being established.

A priority activity of the Taskforce has been to identify ACP on buildings in NSW, and ensuring affected buildings are safe. This has been undertaken through a sustained effort to use the resources of the NSW Government to work with building owners and occupants, industry, and local government to locate affected buildings in NSW.

The most recent Taskforce meeting recorded the progress on building inspections and assessments. At present 417 buildings require 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 222 of the 417 buildings are residential buildings, with 83 classified as high rise (buildings comprising more than 8 storeys).

In total, Fire & Rescue NSW has visited, inspected and assessed over 2280 sites identified through the initial audit, as well as analysis of development approvals by the Department of Planning and Environment, buildings identified by local councils, and visual observations by Fire & Rescue NSW officers.

Where Fire & Rescue identified sites with cladding requiring further assessment, it has written to local councils requesting their authorised fire officers inspect each affected building, and to report back on the outcome of their inspections.

Fire & Rescue is considering the responses received and is continuing to work with councils to finalise the reports. For buildings that were approved by the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE), DPE is issuing notices requiring owners to undertake further investigations.  This work is ongoing.

The Taskforce’s work to identify buildings that have been inspected and assessed and the ACP cladding remains ongoing.

  • In April 2018, NSW Government won the agreement of the national Building Ministers’ Forum to examine and report on existing responsibilities of parties to meet the cost of rectification of non-compliant combustible cladding, including the rights of parties to recover costs from those responsible.
  • Earlier in April 2018, the NSW Government passed an amendment to home building laws administered by NSW Fair Trading.  The new laws classify unsafe external wall cladding as a major defect.Existing home building laws in NSW provide safeguards to owners of new properties with major defects for up to six years after construction finishes. The cladding amendment makes it clear that those protections include unsafe external wall cladding.
  • In March 2018, NSW Fair Trading Commissioner, Rose Webb, called for public submissions on whether a building product use ban is warranted on certain types and certain uses of external cladding.  The responses received are being considered.
  • In February 2018, the Cladding Taskforce launched an advertising campaign, aimed at residents and tenants of high-rise apartment buildings in NSW that may have cladding installed.  The campaign outlined the steps occupants can take to ensure they have the information and expert advice they need to make sure their building is safe.
  • In January 2018, the Department of Planning and Environment released proposed amendments to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation for public consultation.The proposed amendments will require owners of buildings with combustible external wall cladding to register and make a statement to the NSW Government and ensure an independent fire safety assessment is carried out. DPE is now finalising the regulation following the public submissions.
  • In December 2017, NSW Fair Trading visited 51 sites that Fire & Rescue NSW determined required further expert assessment, and hand delivered letters to building residents.Fair Trading has continued to hand deliver letters directly to building residents if their buildings are identified as requiring further assessment.
  • Also in December 2017, the NSW Government strengthened the tough fire safety laws in NSW with the introduction of the Building Products (Safety) Act 2017, administered by NSW Fair Trading.  The new laws require dangerous building products to be located and risks to be addressed.
  • In October 2017 the NSW Government commenced the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Fire Safety and Building Certification) Regulation 2017. The Regulation strengthened fire safety certification for new and existing buildings. The Amending Regulation helps improve the rigour and checking in the design, approval, construction and maintenance phases of the building life cycle.
  • In July 2017, taskforce member agency, Fire & Rescue NSW, developed a comprehensive fact sheet on fire safety in high-rise residential buildings, available in a number of languages including Chinese simplified, Chinese traditional, Korean, Vietnamese and Arabic.
  • In July 2017, the Cladding Taskforce requested that heads of all NSW Departments and Agencies 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.
  • In July 2017, the Cladding Taskforce wrote directly to more than 5,000 building owners and managers of buildings identified in the audit to provide information about the action they should take to ensure the safety of their building.The Taskforce has continued to write directly to building owners if their buildings are identified as requiring further assessment.
  • Also in July 2017, the NSW Government commenced a comprehensive suite of reforms to further strengthen the protections in place for fire safety, with a focus on residential buildings, including reforms to the Building Certification System.
  • In June 2017, the inter-agency Fire Safety and External Wall Cladding Taskforce was established. The Taskforce performs an expert and advisory function and is working with the Federal Government, local councils and industry.

More information about cladding and the ongoing operations of the taskforce can be found at cladding.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au.  For information about fire safety, visit Fire & Rescue NSW’s high-rise building fire safety page.

22 March 2018

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.

15 December 2017

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.

Six months on, the Cladding Taskforce, comprising representatives from the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation (DFSI), 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), has worked to address concerns over fire safety risks arising from the use of aluminium cladding on buildings in NSW.

The Cladding Taskforce takes fire safety very seriously and has taken a number of actions to support the already stringent laws in NSW. They include:

  • Identifying aluminium cladding on buildings in NSW, and ensuring affected buildings are safeThe DAC assessment initiated after the Grenfell Tower fire in London in June 2017, together with work undertaken by FRNSW and the DPE, concluded there were 1184 buildings in NSW which possibly have cladding. FRNSW is visiting all of these buildings. As at 7 December 2017, 220 buildings, including 58 high-rise residential buildings, have been confirmed to have cladding in a quantity or configuration which requires further assessment.
  • FRNSW will be undertaking further work to collect information from building owners whose legal responsibility it is to ensure fire safety. FRNSW is now preparing pre-incident plans for the identified residential high-rises. These plans ensure local firefighters have comprehensive knowledge of these buildings and are well-placed to deal with any incident as quickly and effectively as possible.
  • FRNSW will soon write to local councils requesting their authorised fire officers to inspect each affected building, and to report back to FRNSW on the outcome of their inspections.
  • The Cladding Taskforce is also writing to occupants of the buildings that require further assessment to update them on the work being done to ensure the safety of their building. Occupants will continue to be updated by the Cladding Taskforce as it moves through the process of ensuring the fire safety of these buildings.
  • Noting that the data relied on for the DAC assessment does not contain records of all buildings constructed in NSW, the Taskforce has also overseen the development of a new regulation which will require owners of buildings with combustible external wall cladding to inform the NSW Government and undertake an independent fire safety assessment within set deadlines. The draft Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Identification of Buildings with Combustible Cladding) Regulation 2017 is on exhibition for public comment. Further information can be found at the DPE website http://planspolicies.planning.nsw.gov.au
  • The introduction of tough new laws contained in the Building Products (Safety) Act 2017, preventing the use of unsafe building products in building and construction, by identifying, restricting and rectifying building products which pose a safety risk in buildings. That Act will also give the Commissioner of Fair Trading the power to require builders and suppliers to provide records regarding where banned products have been used. These new laws come into effect on 18 December 2017.

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.

Building or lot owners who have any doubt about the safety of the cladding on their building should have their building assessed by a qualified fire safety professional.

Concerned tenants should contact their managing agent or landlord to find out what action they are taking.

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

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