Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the system of regulation in the building industry is not working, after the Herald revealed the evacuation of a third apartment building in Sydney.
As the state opposition called for an immediate response to the growing number of building defects emerging in the city, Ms Berejiklian said she wanted to “assure the community that we know there’s a problem.
A third Sydney apartment block is now under scrutiny over severe defects and safety issues.
“We know there’s a gap in legislation,” she said. “We allowed the industry to self-regulate and it hasn’t worked. There are too many challenges, too many problems, and that’s why the government’s willing to legislate.”
After the existence of the third multi-storey residential building recently evacuated on safety grounds emerged on Wednesday, the Herald asked each council in Sydney if it was aware of any similar evacuations in the past year.
Most said they did not know of any evacuations like those at Gadigal Avenue, Zetland, or earlier publicised ones at the Opal Tower in Olympic Park and Mascot Towers in Sydney’s inner south. Some councils did not respond to a request for comment; none said they knew of other evacuations.
Councils might not necessarily be aware of the evacuation of a building on safety grounds. But the City of Sydney Council confirmed on Tuesday that after it became aware of the evacuation of 19 Gadigal Avenue late last year, it sent inspectors to the now-abandoned building.
The former mayor of the Hills Shire Council, Yvonne Keane, called for a state government audit of medium to high-rise buildings in 2017 after the council discovered two new apartment blocks in Castle Hill failed to meet fire safety standards before residents moved in.
But a spokeswoman for the council said that the Hills was not aware of any buildings that had recently had to be evacuated.
Equivalent responses were received from representatives for Camden, Canada Bay, Canterbury Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Hawkesbury, Inner West, Ku-Ring-Gai, Hornsby, Liverpool, Mosman, the Northern Beaches, Parramatta, Woollahra, Waverley, Willoughby, Strathfield, Randwick, and Ryde councils.
The City of Sydney said it did know of any other instances of evacuated residential buildings.
The Herald did not receive responses prior to publication from Blue Mountains, Bayside, Blacktown, Burwood, Campbelltown, Hunters Hill, Lane Cove, Sutherland and Penrith councils.
One of the reforms proposed by the Berejiklian government is the creation of a “building commissioner” position, which would have power to investigate construction sites.
Ms McKay called for that role to be established immediately, and described the situation as a “ticking time bomb”.
“I think we will have more and more of these buildings come to light,” she said. “Right now we have no building commissioner in place because this government won’t release the details.
“If you are serious … then tell us about the building commissioner. Put that commissioner in place right now, ensure they are resourced, and ensure they have the power to be there.”
The Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation, Kevin Anderson, called on participants in the industry and the wider community to comment on the government’s proposed reforms, which were being consulted on until the end of July.
“This is about restoring the transparency, accountability and quality of work that the community expect from the building and construction industry,” he said.
“Every building is unique, and when concerns are raised with a building, the last thing you should do is jump to conclusions.”