Non-compliant cladding in the CBD

By Shane Scanlan

The City of Melbourne (CoM) is refusing to reveal which CBD buildings are still under investigation for their non-compliant, flammable cladding.

There are about a dozen non-compliant city towers already on a Victorian Building Authority (VBA) list of buildings that have been cleared of further concerns.

But the council is maintaining a secret list of 17 buildings that are yet to be given a tick of approval.

The council says it won’t reveal its list for fear of causing public alarm. It says all are safe to occupy.

It says it is dealing directly with affected owners’ corporations and it’s no one else’s business.

But, given the seriousness of the issue, doesn’t the public have a right to know? Not everyone is an owners’ corporation executive member.  What about other owner-occupiers?  What about renters?  What about hotel or short-stay apartment guests?

Affected CBD buildings which have been cleared include: 475-511 Swanston St, 108 Flinders St, 58-64 Franklin St, 204-240 Spencer St, 19-37 A’Beckett St, 601 Little Collins St, 532-526 Flinders St, 269-321 Lonsdale St, 660-674 Elizabeth St, 768-800 Swanston St, 42-56 Franklin St and 410 Elizabeth St.

The VBA and CoM audited city buildings following the Lacrosse Apartments fire in 2014.

In answer to questions from CBD News on June 20, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle defended the council’s approach and responsiveness.

“We don’t make those public.  The people who are in the building know.  Their owner’s corporations know.  We want to protect against a public alarmist view,” Cr Doyle said.

“In fact, we’re working through this quite quickly.  When this was first discovered, there were something like 170 buildings that were identified.”

Cr Doyle then went on to explain why the process was taking so long.

“There is a remarkably small number of qualified building surveyors who can do the necessary work because, of course, many of them worked on these buildings in the first place and it would be quite inappropriate for them to be doing evaluations of their own work,” he said.

“So the cross conflict of interest meant there was a very small pool of expertise was available.  Most of that fell to the City of Melbourne and our municipal building surveyor, the statutory officer who works here.”

“Of the buildings that were referred to us, we have moved through, on a risk profile, down to the last 17.  We are hopeful that they can be resolved in a relatively short period of time.”

“We have worked very co-operatively with building owners and, in most cases, compliance measures, even when initially disagreed, have then been agreed.”

“There’ll be a range of different possibilities for those last buildings. We don’t want public alarm," Cr Doyle said.

"If, however, we get to a point with some of those in the last 17 where there is a dispute about what would make a building compliant, we would be prepared to pursue that legally and, in that case, those buildings would be publicly identified.”

With the State Government on July 3 establishing a taskforce to investigate the extent of non-compliant cladding throughout the state, it is unlikely to have any impact on the CBD, as it has already been audited.

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