ACT QUICKLY ON CLADDING
A SENATE inquiry has recommended a national system of licensing for the building industry to cover builders, surveyors, certifiers and project managers.
It has also demanded the polyethylenecore cladding that has been so popular in high-rise construction, due to lower costs and cosmetic appeal, be banned as a matter of urgency.
With hindsight being 20-20, and the horror of the Grenfell tower fire that killed at least 80 people still fresh in people’s memories, such a ban of highly flammable material makes perfect sense, just as a national licensing scheme would also seem a no-brainer for the public.
The need for uniform regulations was summed up neatly by State Housing Minister Mick de Brenni this week when he said new Queensland laws ensured state authorities had the power to act when “dodgy cladding or wiring’’ arrived on the wharf in Brisbane or was brought across the border from NSW. That indicates that no matter what controls Queensland sets in place, dodgy products are still able to enter the country.
Huge amounts of material are imported, yet when Border Protection officials appeared before the Senate inquiry they argued ensuring compliance with the National Construction Code should be at the point of installation and not the ports. The Institute of Building Surveyors on the other hand said the ACCC and state regulators should have responsibility at point of supply or entry.
The Bulletin cautioned in June that with powerful bodies at odds over how materials should be monitored, strong leadership would be required. The danger is that despite the Senate inquiry’s recommendations and calls for bans or uniformity of licensing, Canberra will be tempted to order another probe some time down the track.
The consequences of inaction could be fatal. What happened in London and what almost happened in Melbourne are lessons in that. But other worries remain.
An obvious one has been the use of foam blocks rendered to look like bricks.
Instead of industry bodies and government departments arguing over responsibility and causing paralysis by analysis, this Federal Government has to act quickly. Building costs might rise, but what price lives and safety?