16 Jun 2017

Govt asks councils to check high-rise cladding

10:35 am on 16 June 2017

The government has asked councils to check whether cladding with combustible components was used on New Zealand high-rise buildings before being banned.

Nick Smith

Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith says he is reasonably confident New Zealand's building regulatory system is appropriately safe from fire risks. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

At least 17 people died and dozens more were injured when the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London became engulfed in flames on Wednesday morning.

The cause of the fire is not known but there has been speculation that a type of aluminium composite panel, with a combustible plastic core, enabled the fire to quickly engulf the building.

Another type of panel - one that has a mineral core, which is much more fire resistant - is used widely in New Zealand.

The government brought in regulations on 1 January prohibiting the use of the most combustible type of panel in high-rises, following major fires in Melbourne in 2014 fire and Dubai the following year.

Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith said his officials were reasonably confident that banned products had not been used in high-rise structures.

But he told Morning Report after a disaster of the scale of the London fire "you have to kick the tyres and re-check".

"Were any of these combustible aluminium composite products used prior to them being prohibited on high-rise buildings?

"I've asked my ministry yesterday to check with our major metro councils.

"New Zealand's housing mode is changing in cities like Auckland Wellington and Christchurch. We are getting a larger number of high-rise residential buildings."

Dr Smith said he put out a further five proposals last month to further tighten safety on high-rises.

Otago University to investigate three buildings

Otago University, meanwhile, says it will look at what type of aluminium composite panels have been used on three of its buildings.

University of Otago

Otago University said it would look into three multi-storey buildings used for administration or lectures (file photo). Photo: wikipedia

The university said it was waiting on advice from the Ministry of Building Innovation and Employment.

The multi-storey buildings are administration or lecture buildings, not residential halls.

The university said it did not know if the panels on them were the same as those used on the London apartment block, and it said it was very confident its fire protection measures were solid.

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