Bondi View

New funding plans for tackling asbestos

Waverley Councillor Miriam Guttman-Jones has called for a review of Waverley’s asbestos policy amid increasing fears over the health hazards posed by asbestos in building materials.

In June this year, asbestos removal trucks were found parked outside Bondi Public School, raising concerns over the school community’s exposure to the dangerous fibres.

Ms Guttman-Jones, who served for 22 years as Director of Nursing at the Eastern Suburbs Endoscopy Clinic in Bondi Junction, said asbestos can pose serious health risks in the long-term such as mesothelioma and lung cancer.

“Mesothelioma has touched me personally,” she said. “I had my cousin’s husband, Morris Grinszpan, die three years ago from the disease.

“His loss is palpable … [and] the possibility of getting mesothelioma, it’s not just about the person, it’s the families who are left to deal with the grief.”

Council launched its asbestos policy in July, setting out guidelines for Council’s role in managing asbestos, together with the development application process for buildings containing the hazardous fibres.

The Waverley Asbestos Policy, in accordance with State Government legislation, stipulates the measurement of 10 square metres as the minimum asbestos area for Council policy to apply.

But Ms Guttman-Jones said the policy should address the safe handling of asbestos by reducing the 10-square metre minimum requirement and ensuring any handling of asbestos was performed by professional licensed operators.

“I have real issues with the 10 square metres,” she said. “We don’t know just how much [damage] asbestos can cause. All we do know is that once it gets into your system, it can lie dormant for many years.”

Councillor Dominic Wy Kanak echoed the sentiments, arguing Council should increase licence checks on hired professionals and clamp down on regulatory breaches.

“The present State Government legislation hampers what some councils wish to do to provide better maximised standard protection for our community,” he said.

Waverley Mayor Sally Betts said asbestos is estimated to be found in one in three Australian homes.

“We have many beautiful older homes in Waverley and as part of Asbestos Awareness Month [in November], we are asking everyone to just be aware of how to identify and safely dispose of unsafe asbestos,” Ms Betts said.

“What we need to do is make sure that everyone who is going to renovate is aware of the guidelines. We do not want anyone to be harmed by asbestos.”

Last Thursday, the State Government announced $3 million towards a new Householders’ Asbestos Disposal Scheme set for trial next year. The scheme will waive the waste levy on asbestos and reduce tip fees in selected council areas for 12 months.

Next Thursday, Council will hold a Blue Lamington Drive in Oxford St Mall to help raise awareness about the need to handle and dispose of asbestos safely, as part of Asbestos Awareness this month.

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