Flammable cladding more widespread than first thought

By Leith van Onselen

The fallout from Monday’s fire at the 41-storey Neo200 building on Melbourne’s Spencer Street continues, with information emerging that residents of the 60 buildings deemed to be at the “highest risk” due to deadly flammable cladding have not been notified for fear that arsonists and/or terrorists could target their buildings:

Stephen Raff, founder of Ace Body Corporate Management, said that wasn’t good enough.

He said residents and owners must be made aware.

“Yes it should be (public) – absolutely,” Mr Raff told Neil Mitchell.

“The government, both state and federal, have a responsibility here.

“This is not the owners’ responsibility or problem – they’ve bought in good faith and have bought a building that has substandard cladding and is putting lives at risk.”

Meanwhile, other apartments owners, whose buildings have been left off the government’s flammable cladding list, have subsequently found out that their buildings are infested:

A Melbourne apartment block recently found to have dangerous combustible cladding was not on the government taskforce’s audit list for assessment, and had to be privately assessed at a cost of $20,000.

The discovery has prompted concerns hundreds of similar buildings in Melbourne’s CBD could be in a similar situation, forcing residents to spend thousands employing fire engineers to determine the safety of their homes…

Cladding expert Sahil Bhasin, the general manager of Roscon, a company specialising in identifying building defects, said he believed realistically there were hundreds of buildings in Melbourne not on the audit list which were likely to have cladding…

The Greens want taxpayers to foot the bill for repairs:

Premier Andrews dismissed a proposal by Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam to set up a $50 million cladding safety fund which would enable owners of apartments with dangerous cladding to get it replaced immediately at taxpayers’ expense, with the onus then on the state government recoup the cost from builders through legal avenues.

Whereas firefighters attending the 41-storey Neo200 building discovered international students living in crowded slum-like conditions, thus further endangering safety:

Firefighters found up to 10 beds crammed inside some two-bedroom apartments after a fire tore through a notorious tower in Melbourne’s CBD…

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Trent Curtin said firefighters were hindered in their efforts to battle the blaze and evacuate residents due to overcrowding inside the complex…

Investigators believe the fire’s likely cause was a discarded cigarette that ignited combustible materials stored on the balcony…

“The council can check for overcrowding but they have to give warning … We know we have had beds in the stairwell [in the past]” The tower has a history of fires and overcrowding…

The Neo200 tower was rated a “moderate risk” in a statewide audit of buildings with combustible cladding that followed the Lacrosse fire.

So if the Neo200 building was deemed “moderate risk”, and yet caught alight from a cigarette, what does this say about those buildings deemed “high risk”?

Sadly, policy makers have allowed the building of hundreds of ‘slums in the sky’, all to feed the business lobby migrant consumers and workers, and our universities international students.

Meanwhile, the Coalition and business lobby have spent years rallying against “redtape” as if it is some sort impediment to business, rather than necessary rules and regulations meant to stop shoddy building practices, the use of dangerous building materials, and the use of apartments as over crowded slums.

The Lacrosse and Neo200 fires are a warning to us all that a disaster, like the Grenfell Tower in London, is only a matter of time.

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  1. reusachtigeMEMBER

    I don’t think anyone is really too fussed about this. Apartment living is the way of the future and everybody loves it!

      • I think it’s more that older apartments will keep declining in price, only more slowly than new ones.

        It’s because the two markets are not really separate.

        New ones will absolutely plummet. The loss of wealth and equity that results from this will drag on the entire housing market – older apartments, free standing houses, everything. Some new apt investors will need to sell other stock to cover their debts. Some Bank of Mum and Dad will lose their family home. Some migrants will take the hit (lost deposit) and leave the country rather than be stuck here with hundreds or thousands in negative equity. And of course the thousands of people who used to be employed building slipshod new apartments could lose their jobs – and then their homes.

        The contagion effects will help bring the whole thing down.

      • reusachtigeMEMBER

        What’s wrong with these people? Asian chicks are awesomely hyper-sexual. They are missing out. But, I still think it’s ok for people to choose whatever race they do and don’t like. I have “No curry munchers or dudes in suits” on my profile.

      • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

        Your Rank discrimination against Males and,… Indians I presume is unacceptable !
        Once we lefties get in power again Types like you will be rehabilitated in sexual re education 0rgy Camps where you WILL enjoy being the b!tch of many Dudes of sub Continental origin.

      • Lol. These people are barking mad. “How dare you not find me physically attractive based on my physical attributes”.

        I agree that there should be no racial vilification, but a statement like “I don’t find attractive” is a neutral statement of fact about a sexual preference. It’s like saying I don’t find thin people attractive, or fat people, or hairy people, or bald people or whatever.

        I look forward to the time when we are all required to find everybody physically attractive, so that nobody will ever be offended ever again. Except feminists who don’t want to be found attractive, because that objectifies them.

      • Manlets can’t get laid = muh biological imperative

        Indian/Arab men can’t get laid = muh cultural differences

        Ugly brown women can’t get laid = muh racism

      • From https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/racism
        “The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.”
        So yes, not finding Asian people attractive is racist by definition, implying that Asian characteristics are less sexually appealing than another races.
        How the world chooses to use that information on the other hand……..

      • @EP – Racism against Indians is totally acceptable in polite company, until someone needs a doctor or their computer breaks. We don’t mind because we use the same logic to rip everyone off with dodgy work 🙂

        Then again, this blog is mostly wh!te men, so I’m assuming everyone else here is also pretty used to being discriminated against?

        No – what annoys me is paki’s calling themselves indian. But that is more like a hobby horse, cause it’s also funny – Schroedinger’s racism – when many muzzies are around, its like “the sub continent will always be ours!”, when no muzzies are around “we are indian also”

    • Strange Economics of the rental yield

      The firemen have exposed the Business model for overpriced apartments?
      2 bedroom apartment at 500K actual worth. Rent to 2 people at 500 a week, 25k rent – 5 % gross yield. 3% net (high stratas).
      Rent to 10 people at each 200/week – 100k/year rent, 20 % gross yield, 18% net.
      Result – Apartment can sell for 1 million !

      And now considering 30% of these guest workers smoke, and they are just going to ask them to go out of the building to smoke every half hour?, and then say it is safe? First rule of safety is eliminate the risk, not hope people follow an inconvenient rule.

    • DefinitelyNotTheHorribleScottMorrisonPM

      Yes, apartment living is the future for Labour voters, immigrants and millennials. This is because these are the people best suited to vibrant situations. These apartments are all perfectly good investor grade stock built to government standards, generously provided by landlords. These charred immigrants are nothing but ingrates who need to get to grips with the Aussie way of doing things.

    • reusachtigeMEMBER

      Freedom of enterprise states that this is just a business meeting a demand. Good on the landlord.

    • Stewie GriffinMEMBER

      “10 beds in a 2 bedroom flat!”

      Well looky, looky, looky… apparently you CAN leverage rents !

      • Year. I have been very charitable in posting about arrangements where people are (only) 3-to-a-room.

        This is how immigration drives property through some pretty awesome yields on slumpartments and illegal roominghouses.

    • And you can bet the landlord is negatively gearing like a champ and only reporting rent for one occupant.

  2. > Residents “have not been notified for fear that arsonists and/or terrorists could target their buildings:”

    This is BS. It should read “residents have not been notified for fear that unit values could crash”

  3. Is the “list” of buildings with flammable cladding available to the public? If not, why not? Surely that info should be published for transparency of property transactions, and for safety reasons.

    • They say they are worried it might invite arsonists. Well perhaps that should be a concern.

      Also why won’t the Federal government ban their import and use? Apparently they see it as unfair to flammable cladding manufacturers.

      • Perhaps because the manufacturers are all Chinese and we have an FTA, it might be considered incendiary.

      • I assume that the use of the cladding is already banned as non compliant building materials, or otherwise there would be no need to rectify. Banning importation of aluminium/plastic laminate as a whole is completely nonsensical as it has many other uses.
        The failure as always in the enforcement of existing legislation, with government inspections having been replaced by builders either self certifying or paying a mate to do it for them.

    • Fabian AlderseyMEMBER

      Yes, this confuses me – if you’re looking at buying an apartment, surely flammable cladding would be right up there in terms of concerns? If I couldn’t get a straight answer that the cladding has been assessed by the relevant authority and deemed safe, I wouldn’t buy the apartment.

  4. It was conveyed to me over a coffee with someone senior in MFB that they are anticipating loss of life in a future tower fire. When the firies see over-crowding they typically also see tampering with smoke alarms (take away container taped over the top). The location of the cladding on Neo200 being where it was made it act like a chimney.

    Had a dig through the cladding page and found a report (post Lacrosse fire).

    International students, international workers and newly arrived
    4.22 The MFB knows that international students, international workers and newly arrived
    residents are more likely to live in types of housing that are over-represented in MFB fire
    fatality statistics. Such fires often occur in rental properties such as shared housing and
    rooming houses. Issues discovered by fire services inspections and local council
    inspections in such properties include:
    (a) overcrowding;
    (b) a lack of smoke alarms;
    (c) an insufficient number of smoke alarms;
    (d) unsafe cooking practises;
    (e) reduced egress/no egress; and
    (f) overuse of electricity due to increased occupancy.
    4.23 These issues are further compounded by (among other things) the following issues faced by
    this cohort:
    (a) language challenges;
    (b) lack of awareness of home fire safety practices;
    (c) limited/no knowledge about the use of or requirements for smoke alarms; and
    (d) lack of awareness regarding the safe use of utilities, fixed appliances and portable
    4.24 For example, the firefighters who attended the Lacrosse Fire reported that the occupancy of
    many of the apartments appeared to be in excess of what would normally be expected in a
    two bedroom apartment.
    4.25 During the investigation it was identified that some apartments had sleeping arrangements
    for up to 8 people, leading to the storage of large amounts of personal belongings in the
    apartment and on the balcony. High occupancy levels in apartments can impact on the safe
    evacuation of occupants in the event of an emergency and the storage of large amounts of
    personal belongings can increase fire fuel loads.
    4.26 MFB firefighters indicated during a debrief about the incident at Lacrosse that it was a
    difficult process to register and account for all occupants, as some evacuees did not speak
    English and some did not understand the reason for providing their name and address.

  5. What we need, in order to stop this high rise overcrowding madness is some pretty young girl to die in a fire.

    Her photos can be on the front pages of newspapers and the deafening cries of “the government must stop this right now” will go up and probably won’t be silenced.

    I hope that girl isn’t anyone I know.

    • That’s normally how these things are fixed.
      Though hope not for her sake …. and the payout the tax players will be on the hook for due to non disclosure if it’s one of the 60.

  6. We need a spray from mike_mb. Looks like has assertions of slumlike overcrowding and unsafe practices like cooking on camps stoves were spot on.

      • Self-immolation on the balcony of a napalm-clad high rise would be better than hanging.

        But seriously, if you ever feel that way, call Lifeline.

      • Nah, go long lampposts and rope and point him at the pollies.

        oh, you meant the myself thingy, not someone else.

  7. Don’t worry when the big incident does happen we will have an Apartment Building Fire Risk Building Royal Commission 🙂 and it will all be OK

  8. Mining BoganMEMBER

    You know how DFAT gives travel alerts when you’re travelling to warn of natural disasters and terrorism and stuff? Maybe we need those alerts when we walk into the foyer of a high rise.

    “This is to advise you that this building is classified as a fire risk and potential terrorist target. No unnecessary sleeping over is recommended. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Mind the beds in the stairwell.”