Does the public deserve to know where the illegal cladding is?
By Shane Scanlan
29 Jun 2017
The Grenfell tragedy in London has focused national attention again on
Docklands and the issue of non-compliant, flammable aluminium building
After all, it was here in 2014 that the exterior of the Lacrosse
building in LaTrobe St caught fire due to non-compliant cladding.
The risk in Britain is far greater, given the absence of internal
sprinkler systems. But it’s worth noting that the British have already
started removing non-compliant cladding while the owners of Lacrosse
have been given until July 2018.
So how many other Docklands buildings are affected? The City of
Melbourne won’t say. It says it is working with building owners’
corporations and it’s best to keep details secret to avoid people
The council is working on the last 17 buildings of 83 identified from a
desktop audit conducted with the Victorian Building Authority (VBA)
after the Lacrosse fire. The VBA was dealing directly with six of the
Once no further action is required to bring a building up to scratch,
it is added to a public list published by the VBA. But the VBA also
removes buildings from the list after some time, so there is no single
public record of a building’s status.
Apart from Lacrosse, it appears that the building of most concern in
Docklands is Exo Apartments on the corner of Merchant and Collins
The City of Melbourne won’t talk about Exo and neither will its builder
Lendlease. But Exo is one of four buildings on the Metropolitan Fire
Brigade’s (MFB) heightened response list (along with Lacrosse and two
others in Southbank).
Recent media reports of cladding due for removal from Travelodge in
Aurora Lane would also indicate that it is also one of the 17 on the
council’s secret list.
The council (and Lendlease for that matter) point out that no building is deemed unsafe to occupy.
But, given the seriousness of the issue, doesn’t the public have a
right to know? Not everyone is an owners’ corporation executive member.
What about other owner-occupiers? What about renters? What about hotel
or short-stay apartment guests?
And what about the parents of children using The Harbour Family and
Children’s Centre, which is on the VBA’s list? Were they told the
facility was one of the buildings found to have non-compliant cladding?
Probably not, as the staff did not even know it had been listed.
Like Exo, the City of Melbourne refuses to talk about the childcare
centre. A spokesperson advised Docklands News to talk to the VBA about
But the building is also a council facility. The council runs the centre.
A VBA spokesperson said: “833–843 Bourke St Docklands (permit number
2008013) was audited and deemed non-compliant on November 24, 2015 and
referred to the City of Melbourne on December 12, 2015.”
“The VBA received advice from the City of Melbourne on April 22, 2016
that the building was safe to occupy and no further action was required
by the municipal building surveyor (MBS) – at which stage it was handed
over to the VBA to work with the builder to bring the building into
In answer to questions from Docklands News on June 20, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle defended the council’s approach.
“I don’t know how many are in Docklands. We don’t make those public.
The people who are in the building know. Their owners’ corporations
know. We want to protect against a public alarmist view,” Cr Doyle said.
“In fact, we’re working through this quite quickly. When this was first
discovered, there were something like 170 buildings that were
Cr Doyle then went on to explain why the process was taking so long.
“There is a remarkably small number of qualified building surveyors who
can do the necessary work because, of course, many of them worked on
these buildings in the first place and it would be quite inappropriate
for them to be doing evaluations of their own work,” he said.
“So the cross conflict of interest meant there was a very small pool of
expertise was available. Most of that fell to the City of Melbourne and
our municipal building surveyor, the statutory officer who works here.”
“Of the buildings that were referred to us, we have moved through, on a
risk profile, down to the last 17. We are hopeful that they can be
resolved in a relatively short period of time.”
“We have worked very co-operatively with building owners and, in most
cases, compliance measures, even when initially disagreed, have then
“There’ll be a range of different possibilities for those last buildings.
We don’t want public alarm. If, however, we get to a point with some of
those in the last 17 where there is a dispute about what would make a
building compliant, we would be prepared to pursue that legally and, in
that case, those buildings would be publicly identified.”
Other Docklands buildings to appear on the VBA list (meaning no further
action is required) include The Quays, apartments above Harbour Town
Shopping Centre and the AMP building on the corner of Batman’s Hill
Drive and Collins St.
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