Minister reveals 553 buildings with flammable cladding

The NSW Minister for Better Regulation, Kevin Anderson, has revealed there are 553 buildings in NSW with high-risk flammable cladding, with 154 of them being in high-rise buildings.

But while the government will not reveal which buildings are affected, keeping the identity on a "secret list", Mr Anderson, in charge of the government's response to the building industry crisis, admitted that he had not been to a single meeting of the task force set up to tackle the problem, even though it meets every three weeks.

The NSW Minister for Better Regulation, Kevin Anderson. Picture: Richard Dobson
The NSW Minister for Better Regulation, Kevin Anderson. Picture: Richard Dobson

In an often fiery meeting of the budget estimates committee today, which had to be temporarily suspended after MPs argued, Mr Anderson was accused of "being asleep at the wheel" by Labor MP Daniel Mookhey.

The committee heard that the task force had met more than 50 times, but Mr Anderson had not found time in his schedule to attend. He was also asked if the newly appointed buildings commissioner, David Chandler, had attended any meetings. He had not.

Mr Anderson told the committee that 4000 buildings had originally been identified as having a fire risk, a number which included 553 buildings with high-risk flammable cladding, 154 of them being high rise buildings. They include government buildings, some of them "health sites".

He said work was ongoing to assess the buildings but would not be drawn on the response in Victoria, where the government has put in place a $600 million war chest to deal with the cladding crisis.

Mr Anderson was also quizzed by Labor about the mechanism put in place by the government to notify renters about any cladding problems with the buildings in which they lived or were about to rent.

Liberal MP Catherine Cusack. Picture: Richard Dobson
Liberal MP Catherine Cusack. Picture: Richard Dobson

He said that there had been a letter and doorknocking campaign, but he "hoped" that landlords would notify them.

Asked by Labour MP Courtney Houssos why it couldn't be a requirement that prospective tenants were notified before they signed a lease, Mr Anderson said he would take on board recommendations which could aid the notification of tenants.

"We are always on the lookout to improve what we do . . and that's something I'll be taking on board," Mr Anderson said.

Earlier the committee hearing was temporarily shut down after a row between committee members.

As Mr Anderson was asked questions about how the government was dealing with the problems around cladding, Liberal MP Catherine Cusack locked horns with Labor MP Courtney Houssos.

As the meeting was called to a temporary halt and with Mr Anderson being accused of not knowing his portfolio, MP Peter Primrose accused Mr Anderson of being "a weak minister" saying that Ms Cusack was "trying to protect him".

Building Commissioner, David Chandler. Picture: Richard Dobson
Building Commissioner, David Chandler. Picture: Richard Dobson

Earlier, Greens MP David Shoebridge accused Mr Anderson of appointing a "jockey without a horse" by hiring a Building Commissioner, David Chandler, without an actual building commission to address the problems around apartment buildings.

Mr Anderson confirmed Mr Chandler only had "four or five admin staff" but said there were other resources he could draw upon.

"You've got a building commissioner without a commission. [It's like] a jockey without a horse. He needs … resources and you haven't given them to him," Mr Shoebridge said.

"You have set up Mr Chandler to fail."

Mr Anderson retorted: "The resources available to Mr Chandler are vast."