Combustible cladding risk still an issue for buildings in the ACT

Combustible cladding has been found at five more buildings in Canberra, all belonging to ACT Health, says a report on ABC News.

According to reports, flammable cladding was found on Canberra's Centenary Hospital for Women and Children and the ACT Government announced the decorative panels would be replaced as a matter of precaution.

But the cladding is still on the building says the ABC, with the Government reportedly saying it is looking for a contractor to complete the task this financial year.

Earlier this month, when questioned by the ABC, Planning Minister Mick Gentleman said no other buildings had been identified in the ongoing audit of government buildings.

But on Thursday, in the ACT Legislative Assembly, he revealed five other ACT Health buildings were affected.

The Aluminium Composite Cladding report, tabled in the Assembly, says three of the buildings were also on the Canberra Hospital premises at Woden, while the Belconnen Community Health Centre and the Health Protection Service in Holder also had the potentially dangerous cladding.

Among the additional hospital buildings were the emergency department, the Australian National University (ANU) Medical School and radiation and oncology departments.

The aluminium cladding, similar to that responsible for the catastrophic Grenfell Tower fire, contains a flammable material called polyethylene — though not all aluminium contains this substance.

The report also revealed that 46 schools and seven public housing buildings had aluminium cladding, though it is not yet known whether any of those buildings contained the flammable polyethylene.

Further investigations into the buildings are underway.

The ABC report says concerns were raised about flammable cladding in the ACT as far back as 2009, but a solution to the problem was never agreed upon.

Instead, the cladding has continued to come into the territory and it has been left to private building certifiers to make up their own minds on safety.

The Government has conceded the current approvals process is subjective.

CFMEU ACT branch secretary Dean Hall told the ABC it was "quite shocking" that the report confirmed building certifiers were "running off their own song sheet".

"The regulation in the area of fire control and cladding is quite clear — the purpose is to stop people burning to death in buildings," Hall said.

"If the Government is saying they can't control the standard of the certifiers, then they need to intervene."

Hall said high-level ACT bureaucrats were "like a deer caught in the headlights".

"There are a lot of reports, a lot of things being said and no action on the ground.”

"What we've seen is again a report that's identified a problem, but there's no real solution. Someone's got to take responsibility for this."

But ACT Land Strategy and Environment deputy director-general Geoffrey Rutledge defended building certifiers as "professionals".

"To date, we haven't seen anything that's a cause for concern," Rutledge said.

"What we're warning against is a knee-jerk reaction to remove cladding and replace it with an equally unsafe or unsafe product."

Opposition spokeswoman Nicole Lawder told the ABC that Government needed to take action, following NSW’s lead to consider banning the flammable cladding.

"It's a real concern that there are additional buildings identified," Lawder said.

"Members of the public have a right to information about the buildings that they're visiting, the buildings that they work in or potentially might live in or send their children to school in."



Image sourced from Flickr cc: Morefunkthanyou

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