Hickory looks forward to working with the Government to involve industry in developing a response to the cladding crisis. It's important that we find solutions and build a better regulatory framework in Victoria to prevent similar occurrences in the future.
The key failings in the oversight of the construction sector and use of non-compliant cladding are those of regulators and policy makers – not builders – and we will work with the Government to prevent it occurring in the future.
The regulatory environment
The National Construction Code and Standards are a Federal responsibility however, enforcement falls to the States and Territories. It seems apparent that this framework is failing. A shift of responsibility to the private sector has occurred through the use of private surveyors who are regulated by the VBA. Government has outsourced risk and responsibility to the private sector and with it, consumer and community safety.
We have always complied with standards and regulations, including the use of aluminium cladding. It was used following approval by relevant authorities and the buildings were later deemed compliant.
During the last 20 years, the use of aluminium composite panel façade material on multi-storey buildings became a conventional practice. It was specified and used on tens-of-thousands of buildings around the world. Even government authorities instructed builders to use aluminium composite panel.
Years after these buildings were built and certified as fit for occupation, builders are now being asked to re-build the façades using new material that the industry is being told is better material – material that is safer than the material that was once specified, tested and certified as being fit for occupation. We are being asked to do so at considerable cost, without support from the government that had sanctioned the use of these materials.
Hickory is currently constructing 15 large towers in Victoria at a cost of $1.5b. We employ 1,000 employees and have a further 2,500 specialist tradespeople engaged in constructing these buildings.
The easy response to this crisis is to blame the builder and shift financial and reputational responsibility to us. This approach threatens the entire industry, its viability and the workforce which relies on it for its livelihood.