Report highlights: Building regulation: combustible external cladding

What the report is about

The report focuses on how effectively the Department of Customer Service (DCS) and Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) led reforms addressing the unsafe use of combustible external cladding on existing residential and public buildings.

Nine local councils were included in the audit because they have responsibilities and powers needed to implement the NSW Government’s reforms.

What we found

After the June 2017 Grenfell Tower fire in London, the NSW Government committed to a ten-point action plan, which included establishing the NSW Cladding Taskforce, chaired by DCS, and with DPE as a key member. The Taskforce co-ordinates and oversees the implementation of the plan.

Depending on the original source of development approval, either individual local councils or DPE are responsible for ensuring that buildings are identified, assessed, and remediated. NSW Government-owned buildings are the responsibility of each department.

Identifying buildings potentially at risk was complex and resource intensive. However, on balance, it is likely that most affected buildings have now been identified.

By October 2021, around 40 per cent of assessed high-risk buildings that are the responsibility of local councils had either been remediated or found not to pose an unacceptable fire risk.

By February 2022, almost 50 per cent of affected NSW Government-owned buildings, and 90 per cent of buildings that are the responsibility of DPE, have either been cleared or are in the process of being remediated.

Earlier guidance on some key issues could have been provided by DCS and DPE in the two years after the Grenfell Tower fire. This may have reduced confusion and inconsistency across local councils we audited, and in some NSW Government departments. This especially relates to the application of the Fair Trading Commissioner's product use ban.

Given the inherent risks posed by combustible external cladding, buildings initially assessed as low-risk may also still warrant further action.

While most high-risk buildings have likely been identified, poor information handling makes it difficult to keep track of all buildings from identification, through to risk assessment and remediation.

What we recommended

DCS and DPE should:

  1. address the confusion surrounding the application of the Commissioner for Fair Trading's product use ban for aluminium composite panels with polyethylene content greater than 30 per cent
  2. develop an action plan to address buildings assessed as low-risk
  3. improve information systems to track all buildings from identification through to remediation.

Fast facts

Authority responsible for
ensuring that owners make
their buildings safe
Approximate number of
buildings referred for further
Approximate percentage of
buildings remediated or
assessed to be safe
Local councils 1,200 40%
NSW Government owned 66 50%
DPE under delegation from
the Minister for Planning
137 90%
*After initial inspection by Fire and Rescue NSW, and/or preliminary inquiries by the consent authority, it was identified that the building may be at high-risk of
fire from combustible external cladding.

Further information

Please contact Ian Goodwin, Deputy Auditor-General on 9275 7347 or by email.