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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (12 December) . . Page.. 4401..


MR WOOD: That is a key issue-thank you, Ms Gallagher. The issue of fire safety at the multiunit complexes emerged as a serious issue last financial year as a result of the works done on the previous government's multiunit property plan. At that time, ACT Housing sought necessary funding to address these works progressively over a period.

Legal advice received in May confirmed that the territory had a duty of care to further minimise the risks in case of fires in these complexes, and as a result the government decided that it needed to respond urgently and that the works needed to be brought forward. Apart from the significant legal issues, on coming to office the government believed that it had a moral responsibility to address the fire safety issues that presented themselves. Therefore, and most importantly, the government needed to give a clear signal that these issues had been recognised and that it intended to address them.

An increase of $16 million in capital maintenance expenditure against an annual program of $12 million indicates the importance the government placed on the issue. That funding gave ACT Housing the necessary confidence to initiate and proceed with the work. That step was important.

Because of the serious and extensive nature of this work, the process that ACT Housing is using is thorough and detailed. It involves a detailed fire audit, conducted by a fire engineer, of each of the properties. This audit scopes the works required at each complex, as the appropriate solution is different for each property, depending on its design and age.

Once the audit is complete, the works are documented and then tendered by ACT Housing's total facility managers, as required for works of this magnitude. As indicated at the time, this is a program over two years and already a considerable amount of work has been done.

I repeat: the government needed to give a clear signal that these issues had been recognised and that it intended to address them; and the $10 million and $6 million from ACT Housing was that clear signal. Where possible, the works are combined with other works-for example the planned upgrade of Northbourne flats in Braddon and Turner and at Windeyer Court in Watson-in order to minimise disruption to tenants and secure any economies.

It will be important that the works are approved either by a building certifier or the fire brigade. ACT Housing has been working to address these issues as part of the scoping process. I understand that as well as works at Kanangra Court and Stuart flats, which are in progress, the likely next works will be at Ambarra Court. I reiterate that these works are being undertaken as a necessary precaution. The buildings met the requirements at the time they were constructed and are generally sound. But we are making them safer.

The government is concerned to ensure that its tenants have an enhanced level of security and safety. I want to reassure tenants and the community that, while we have determined that these precautionary works need to be brought forward, there is no evidence that any of the properties is unsafe.


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