According to a story in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), replacing flammable cladding is causing friction between owners of Sydney apartment buildings while at the same time, imposing large financial burdens on them.
Apartment owner Rave Mawjee says some of his neighbours who were pensioners or had been furloughed due to the pandemic-induced recession would struggle to afford it.
"I've got to refinance my mortgage to pay for it," he says.
While a safety panel was set up last month, NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler has noted it is unlikely to advise on which replacement cladding materials should be used until 2021 says the SMH story.
Another Sydney apartment owner, Janice McLeod, says she could not understand why NSW did not have a list of suitable cladding products.
"I think it's puzzling why [the government] can't endorse products because Australia has a very extensive testing system," she told the SMH.
The core of the aluminium composite cladding on the outside of her apartment comprises about 81 percent polyethylene, which under current rules, is considered a high fire risk.
Tina Murolo, the chair of the strata committee of the 19-level two-tower, 286-apartment The Quay in Haymarket told the SMH that, “I have a little panic attack each time I hear anything because we have two buildings with combustible cladding, basically wrapped in petrol blankets, and if there were a fire, I have no doubt that lives would be lost.
“We’ve had meetings with our building’s engineers and builders and every time they just deny responsibility and this situation goes on and on."
The peak body for apartment owners has accused authorities of blame shifting, more than three years after London's Grenfell Tower fire exposed the dangers of flammable cladding.
"Local councils accuse the NSW cladding taskforce of hounding them to get cladding replaced. Councils are in turn hounding building owners with fire orders and threats of multimillion-dollar fines,” Owners Corporation Network executive officer Karen Stiles told the SMH.
NSW Better Regulation minister Kevin Anderson notes that "Local councils can request that the panel consider specific matters when a council is assessing particular remediation plans put forward by building owners.”