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August 21, 2018

Half of all Mr Fluffy asbestos home owners join ACT government buyback

The demolition of Mr Fluffy asbestos homes across Canberra is expected to get under way after June this year with more than half already acquired by the ACT government.

Acting Chief Minister Simon Corbell announced on Friday more than half of all homeowners had accepted offers made through the buyback program, four months before the scheme closes.

Already 511 offers have been accepted from the 1021 affected properties in the ACT.

Mr Corbell said the latest results showed many affected homeowners were taking the opportunity to move on to another property.

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“I encourage homeowners who are still considering whether or not to enter the buyback program to discuss their individual circumstances with the Asbestos Response Taskforce around what support can be provided,” he said in a statement.

The government now owns 131 properties and is overseeing security and maintenance.

A pilot demolition program of a small number of affected properties will start in late March to confirm procurement, demolition and communications processes.

Two of the properties included in the pilot will be public housing.

“The Mr Fluffy response is not only an ACT government, but an ACT community response,” Mr Corbell said.

“It is an issue affecting 58 suburbs across the territory and has a cost to our community of at least $400 million, even after the resale of remediated blocks. It is, and will continue to have, a significant impact on the ACT for years to come.”

This week Chief Minister Andrew Barr said some compulsory acquisitions could be required if affected homeowners decided not to join the buyback scheme before June 30.

He warned homeowners they would not receive a better offer as a result of not signing up.

Mr Corbell said the taskforce would be working closely with the community ahead of the demolition program to ensure safety and security.

“Reducing the impact to the community through efficient scheduling of demolition works will also be a paramount consideration,” he said.

Tenders for the demolitions are being finalised, a spokeswoman for the Asbestos Taskforce said last week.

The government has confirmed it owns affected houses in the following suburbs: Forrest, Ainslie, Downer, Griffith, Hackett, Narrabundah, O’Connor, Watson, Yarralumla, Kambah, Wanniassa, Chapman, Chifley, Curtin, Duffy, Farrer, Fisher, Garran, Holder, Hughes, Lyons, Mawson, Pearce, Rivett, Stirling, Torrens, Waramanga, Weston, Aranda, Charnwood, Cook, Evatt, Flynn, Giralang, Higgins, Holt, Latham, Macgregor, Macquarie, Melba, Page, Scullin, Spence, Weetangera.

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Half of all Mr Fluffy asbestos home owners join ACT government buyback

NSW Government should buy and demolish 5300 homes with Mr Fluffy insulation: report

Moving on: Chris and Charmaine Sims with their son Zac and daughter Alma. They are leaving Mr Fluffy behind after buying a new home in Kambah in the ACT.

Moving on: Chris and Charmaine Sims with their son Zac and daughter Alma. They are leaving Mr Fluffy behind after buying a new home in Kambah in the ACT. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

More than 5300 NSW homes may be riddled with deadly Mr Fluffy asbestos insulation and the state government should demolish and buy affected properties, a parliamentary report has found.

The findings, unanimously supported by government, Labor and crossbench MPs, leave the Baird government potentially facing a $5 billion bill should it follow the Australian Capital Territory government’s lead and buy back the homes.

Mr Fluffy is the former contractor that used loose-fill asbestos fibres for roof insulation in homes in Canberra and parts of NSW in the 1960s and 1970s. There are fears that the fibres pose acute health risks.

NSW authorities are investigating how many properties contain loose-fill insulation. The report said 59 homes have been identified so far “with the potential for there to be many hundreds more”.

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PricewaterhouseCoopers has been commissioned to investigate the extent of Mr Fluffy fibres in NSW. An interim report said that, based on the firm’s installation capacity, up to 5376 homes may contain the insulation.

Using a different calculation, based on the distance between Canberra and affected NSW council areas, the assessors found up to 1110 homes may be affected. Their report said the discrepancy between the figures highlighted the need for further investigation.

The parliamentary report condemned “historic inaction of successive NSW governments in responding to this issue”. The gravity of evidence received by the inquiry promoted the report to be released two months earlier than expected.

It found the presence of loose-fill asbestos fibres rendered a home “ultimately uninhabitable”, posing risks to residents, visitors and the public.

The report recommended a statewide buy-back and demolition scheme for all affected residences, based on the ACT model.

The federal government is providing a concessional loan of up to $1 billion to the ACT to buy back and demolish about 1000 houses affected by Mr Fluffy. The NSW government may face a bill five times that, if the cost is extrapolated to the PricewaterhouseCoopers worst-case estimate.

The federal government has refused financial assistance to NSW, saying legal responsibility for affected homes lies with the state government.

The parliamentary report said owners of Mr Fluffy homes should be legally required to disclose that their home is affected, so prospective buyers are informed.

It also called for affected NSW properties to be tagged to protect tradespeople and emergency services workers. In the case where home occupants wished to immediately leave their homes, financial assistance for crisis accommodation and short-term remediation work should be provided, the report said.

Free ceiling inspections are presently available for NSW properties built before 1980 in areas thought to be affected. The report said such testing should be mandatory – potentially involving tens of thousands of homes.

Twenty-six NSW council areas have been identified as potentially affected by loose-fill asbestos. In Sydney, they include Manly, Parramatta, North Sydney, Ku-ring-gai, Bankstown, Warringah and The Hills councils.

A spokesman for Finance and Services Minister Dominic Perrottet said the government would consider the report.

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NSW Government should buy and demolish 5300 homes with Mr Fluffy insulation: report

Asbestos homes compensation agreed

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Asbestos homes compensation agreed

Government rejects union claims of asbestos risks

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The union maintains the partially demolished site is a public health disaster in the making, with broken cement sheeting causing wind gusts to blow the deadly fibres across the city.

Health fears were raised publicly last week when it was revealed the prominent CBD site, in the heart of Brisbane’s business district, was abandoned mid-demolition when the contractor, the Wacol-based P&K Demolitions went broke, owing $3.7 million to creditors.

The director of River City Asbestos Removals, the company contracted by P&K Demolitions to safely remove the cement sheeting, said he had not been able to declare some areas of the site safe, prompting fears thousands of city workers could unwittingly be inhaling the deadly airborne fibres.

Despite the departmental test results, CFMEU Queensland and Northern Territory branch president David Hanna said workplace health and safety officers had neglected their duties in properly supervising the demolition of the 1970s buildings, which they knew contained large amounts of asbestos.

“Everyone has known there has been asbestos there all along and that’s fine, if it’s managed well but it just hasn’t been,” he said.

“The asbestos has to be taken off in full sheets but this has been broken and parts have been pushed off the roof.

“There has been no reticulation system put in place, so there was no way to contain any of the dust that rose and spread.”

Mr Hanna said CFMEU members on site raised concerns about the asbestos removal procedures in early June, six months after the demolition process began.

He said all asbestos needed to be removed in a “soft strip” before demolition work commenced, which he alleged had not been the case.

Mr Hanna said the workplace health and safety officers should move quickly to install a reticulation system to prevent dust blowing off the site, despite its test results returning a negative finding for the fibres.

“It’s no good the department saying it’s not their responsibility, the department is there to protect the public to ensure legislation is adhered to,” he said.

“We think the department should ensure the asbestos is contained and removed in a proper manner and that means a sprinkler system needs to be set up as a precaution straight away.”

The Workplace Health and Safety spokesperson said sealed bags of asbestos remained on site at 300 George Street but that they that posed no public health risk.

“The sealed bags of asbestos still remain on-site, and demolition cannot resume until the bags are collected. It is the responsibility of the site owner to manage the safe removal of these bags,” the spokesperson said.

The developer, the Taiwanese-based Shayher Group, has not been available for comment.

The procurement process to find a new demolitionist is underway.

The CFMEU’s independent testing was undertaken by environmental consultancy Parsons Brinckerhoff. It did not undertake independent air testing at the site.











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Government rejects union claims of asbestos risks