Apartment residents fearful that their homes are at risk of going up in smoke are being reassured by the Government that they are likely to be safe, after a horrific fire in London was blamed on dodgy building materials.

External cladding is thought to be the reason the 24-storey Grenfell Tower went up in flames on Wednesday, likely killing dozens of residents.

The use of the cladding was restricted here on January 1 after it was also blamed for fires in Melbourne and Dubai apartments.

But councils around New Zealand have been told to investigate whether similar cladding has been used in their regions before the crackdown.


Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith said he had been advised such cladding systems were not common here.

"I have asked the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to contact councils and check whether any high-rise buildings have been constructed with these materials prior to the amendments earlier this year."

Further proposals to tighten fire safety requirements for high rises were put out for consultation in May, including improving verification methods for claddings and making sure water supply and fire hydrants are more accessible.

"We will be watching the detailed inquiries into the London disaster to see whether there are any issues relevant to New Zealand's building and fire regulations," Smith said.

More people are moving to high-rise apartments which carry greater fire risk, Smith said.

"Our building regulations need to keep pace with this change in living styles and ensure that New Zealand never experiences what occurred at the Grenfell Tower in London."

The industry says New Zealand has some of the strictest fire safety codes in the world.

Brady Williams is managing director of Active Building Management, in charge of about 70 properties in Auckland including the 32-storey Precinct Apartments on Lorne St in the CBD.

He said evacuation advice for Grenfell Tower - where residents were told to stay in their apartments and wait to be rescued - was "madness".

All the buildings they manage have an evacuation plan, and the majority hold regular fire drills. Alarms and voiceovers when smoke is detected make it "pretty uncomfortable" for people to stay in the building, he said.

Obstructions in the fire escape stairwells added to the chaos in London. ABM's building managers check stairwells one to three times daily to make sure they are clear, he said.

He was "absolutely" confident that people on the top floors could get out quickly in the event of a fire.

"These things are extremely safe places to live."

But while he said there was "no reason to scare people" about internal building fire safety, the industry would need to look more closely at the cladding used in its buildings after the London fire.

The Homeowners and Buyers Association in New Zealand said on Thursday that most leaky housing complexes breached fire safety codes.

But Fire Protection Association vice-president Chris Mak disagrees. He told Newstalk ZB's Larry Williams he would be very surprised if anyone was wilfully negligent in designing and certifying fire protection systems.

In Australia an apartment owners association is also calling for an overhaul of construction codes, saying there are unknown quantities of the product on Australian construction sites and build into apartments.