A leader within the strata community in Australia has hit out at growing revelations about the problem of combustible cladding in large scale apartment complexes, describing the situation as ‘disgraceful’ and calling for a federal response to the problem.

Speaking amid reports that up to 2,500 high-rise buildings in Sydney and half of Melbourne’s high rise towers could contain flammable and non-compliant cladding mostly imported from China, Strata Community Australia Chief Executive Officer Ken Henshaw says it is almost certain that the problem exists on a nationwide basis and that only a federal response will therefore suffice.

“I think if we are talking about half the buildings that have been audited in Melbourne that have non-compliant cladding and up to two and a half thousand in Sydney, how big is this problem?” Henshaw told Sourceable in an interview.

“Is the rest of the country affected? I think it is inconceivable that if it is happening in Sydney and Melbourne that it hasn’t happened everywhere. I think this demands a federal response.”

Henshaw’s comments follow News Ltd reports that up to 2,500 buildings in Sydney could contain flammable cladding similar to what has caused fatalities overseas.

According a report in The Australian, a briefing note from the NSW Department of Planning and the Environment suggests that various methodologies indicate that around 1,800 buildings in Sydney are likely to be affected, and that the number could indeed be as high as 2,500.

That report came after the Victorian Building Authority said its audit into external wall claddings at 170 high rise residential and public buildings throughout the Melbourne CBD and inner suburbs had found that cladding in 51 percent of cases did not comply with standards set out under the Building Code of Australia.

In one case – the Harvest Apartments in Clarendon Street, South Melbourne, – immediate emergency action was required.

The comments also come amid ongoing disputes about who should pay for damage at the Lacrosse apartment complex in Melbourne at which combustible cladding was found during a Metropolitan Fire Brigade investigation following a terrifying fire at the complex that ripped up the side of the building in November 2014.

Whilst Melbourne City Council issued orders for the 400 apartment owners to replace the cladding on their apartments last year, owners say responsibility and cost should instead be borne by the project’s builder, LU Simon.

Henshaw says owners should not be left to pay the cost associated with non-compliant products.

“My heart goes out to these people,” he said.

“Our investment in real-estate is one of the major investments we make in our life, and we do this in good faith – particularly when we are buying a new building like with Lacrosse. And to find that somebody along the chain of responsibility has taken the easy, cheap way out and actually degraded the investment I think is disgraceful. The fact that lot owners are the only people that council can point the finger at and say that ‘you have got to fix this’ also indicates a real failure of regulation in my opinion.”

“These buildings are supposed to be guaranteed for a certain piece of time after they are constructed and I’m not sure why the regulations are such that it’s not the responsibility of the builders and /or developers.”