Two-year ‘failure’ to fix flammable cladding

FIX IT NOW: Shadow planning minister Tim Smith outside the Reg Hickey Stand.

by Luke Voogt

Authorities failed to fix flammable cladding at GMHBA Stadium despite knowing about it for two years, according to Victorian shadow planning minister Tim Smith.

The accusation came last week after the Indy in 2017 first revealed fears of combustible materials in the stadium’s Reg Hickey Stand.

Mr Smith slammed the “absolute failure” of State Government, Victorian Building Authority (VBA) and Kardinia Park Stadium Trust to remove the “very dangerous” cladding.

“I think it’s absolutely disgraceful that they haven’t done anything about it,” he said.

In 2017 the Indy reported an industry tip-off that the 6000-seat stand contained flammable cladding, prompting a trust investigation.

The revelation followed the Grenfell Tower fire in London that killed 80 people in 2017 and reports Victorian buildings could contain materials similar to cladding that caused the blaze.

A few months ago Mr Smith received a tip-off that the Moorabool St side of the stadium was clad in combustible material, which an “impeccable source” later confirmed, he said.

With A-League games at the stadium this month State Government had to rectify the issue immediately, Mr Smith said.

Since the 2017 Indy report Geelong Cats hosted 18 games at GMHBA Stadium, with the stand often reaching capacity.

This February an apartment block in Melbourne, with the same cladding as Grenfell Tower, caught fire.

Mr Smith demanded government detail the cost of rectifying the stand.

State Government allocated funds in its 2019/2020 budget to fix the cladding, a spokesperson said. But government was awaiting further studies to determine the cost, they said.

“Kardinia Park stadium has been inspected by both the VBA and fire engineers and is safe to occupy.”

Kardinia Park Stadium Trust had known about the cladding since 2017, its chief executive officer Gerard Griffin admitted.

“The trust implemented a risk mitigation strategy as soon as we became aware of the issue.”

The strategy included CFA onsite for major events, partially closing Moorabool St, fire safety spot checks and smoking bans.

The trust was working with government and independent experts to examine cladding in the Hickey and Premiership stands, Mr Griffin said.

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