The New South Wales (NSW) government has unveiled a fire safety plan that it says is “Australia’s most comprehensive” response to the issues exposed by London’s deadly Grenfell Tower fire.
The 10-point plan, which includes measures to ban the use of dangerous building materials and identify flammable cladding used in high-rise buildings, was announced after a government audit revealed that more than 1,000 buildings in the state “may” have dangerous cladding.
Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean said the government’s priority was to keep people as safe as possible in their homes.
“We’ll do this by ensuring unsafe building products are taken off the shelves, buildings with cladding are identified and notified, and that we only have people with the necessary skills and experience certifying buildings and signing off on fire safety,” he said.
Kean also said strong new legislation would be introduced to prohibit the sale and use of unsafe building products.
“This package will protect consumers from building products that are inherently dangerous or that are being advertised for use in a way that makes them dangerous,” he said.
Under the plan, every part of the supply and distribution chain would be responsible for making sure products are only used for their intended purpose.
Where a dangerous product has been used, the legislation would allow for rectification orders, as well as prosecution for people caught supplying, selling, or using them.
A “whole of government” taskforce would be established to implement the reforms.
In the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, state governments around Australia have initiated action to ensure the safety of buildings. The Victorian and Queensland governments announced they were establishing taskforces charged with investigating the use of non-compliant and hazardous cladding. The South Australian government is also conducting an audit, while the Western Australian Building Commission is broadening the scope of its aluminum composite panel audit, launched after the 2014 fire at the Lacrosse Building in Melbourne’s Docklands.
In a submission to a Senate inquiry into non-conforming building products in July, the Australian Institute of Architects recommended the introduction of substantial fines for the use of non-compliant products, along with third-party certification regimes and the establishment of a national register of approved products.
Kean said many of the elements of the NSW government’s plan were already underway, including the establishment of the taskforce.
“We had already planned some of the reforms as a part of our ‘consumers-first’ package, but have expedited them to better protect New South Wales families in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire,” he said.
“We will also consider the ongoing investigation into that blaze, and make further changes, if needed, that will continue to put consumers first.”
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