On Friday 8 February the Building Ministers’ Forum (BMF) met in Hobart, Tasmania to discuss progress with priority issues relating to the Australian building and construction industry, yet the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) believes that the outcomes from the forum will fall short of community safety expectations.
At the forum the Ministers discussed the recent events at Opal Tower in Sydney and the Neo200 building in Melbourne, including their impact on residents, owners and the Australian community.
In a news release following the forum, the BMF said the events ‘reinforce the importance of continuing the work already underway in all states and territories to implement the recommendations in the Shergold-Weir Building Confidence Report.
However, AIA National President, Clare Cousins (who represented the architectural profession at the meeting), said the slow pace of progress on such a grave issue was of serious concern.
“The blaze at Melbourne’s Neo200 earlier this week was a stark reminder of what’s at stake and the immediacy of the danger posed,” Ms Cousins said.
“Governments have an opportunity and responsibility, having identified the danger and risk posed by certain types of flammable cladding, to do something about it before any lives are lost,” Ms Cousins stated, “sadly it is an opportunity they appear to be squandering.”
The BMF plans to release a joint implementation plan setting out the direction of the Shergold-Weir report’s proposed reforms of each jurisdiction by the end of February.
Ms Cousins said that the biggest milestone achieved at last week’s forum was an ‘in principle’ agreement – subject to no less than five separate caveats – to a national ban on the unsafe use of combustible cladding in new construction.
“This is unacceptable and fails even the most basic test of common sense. Prohibiting any further installation of such products, without any equivocation, should have been the starting point,” she said.
“The Shergold-Weir report, Building Confidence, and the Senate Economics References Committee inquiry into non-conforming building products sets out a clear and sensible path to reform that has been backed by industry. There is no reason to continue to delay implementation any longer,” Ms Cousins warned.
“There is no room to prevaricate when lives are at stake, it is as simple as that.”
Aside from this, the Ministers proposed changes to the National Construction Code and intends to ensure compliance with it. The AIA was in support of this.
Measures to improve education to lift the competency of building practitioners were also welcomed by the Institute but were advised to go further to properly address issues identified with product substitution.
The Building Ministers’ Forum is expected to meet again in July.