Pressure builds on asbestos response

QUEANBEYAN mayor Tim Overall and local State MP John Barilaro say they're ramping up pressure on the State and Federal governments to address the legacy of Mr Fluffy asbestos in Queanbeyan once and for all.

The push comes as Queanbeyan residents continue to lag well behind their ACT counterparts on preparing a course of action to tackle the dangerous, loose fill asbestos insulation in local buildings.

Almost all affected homes in Canberra have now been identified thanks largely to a $100 million survey and clean-up program instigated by the Commonwealth Government in 1988. And last week ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said advice from her government's Asbestos Taskforce indicated most affected homes- even those cleaned and treated in the late eighties- would likely have to be demolished.

"The advice that I'm getting from my experts at the moment is that it is looking like demolition will be what is recommended," Ms Gallagher told The Canberra Times last week.

Meanwhile Queanbeyan still has no idea how many properties house the potentially-fatal insulation, or where they are. Queanbeyan Council knows of just 11 affected properties, including one block of 30 units, out of an estimated 60 or more potentially affected buildings.

Mayor Overall wrote to the NSW Premier Mike Baird and the Federal employment minister Eric Abetz last week insisting Queanbeyan and NSW residents be included in any clean-up programs.

"The issue is not going to go away. It will continue to be at the forefront here and it needs to be dealt with now, not in 10 or 15 years' time," Cr Overall said.

"I'm seeking their assurance that, when a solution is found, Queanbeyan and other affected NSW residents will not be discriminated against as they have been in the past and effectively left out on a limb."

Even reaching the position Canberra is currently in where it can begin to plan a detailed asbestos response won't be possible in Queanbeyan without first spending millions for licensed assessors to survey every pre-1980 property in the town, Cr Overall said.

"Any resolution of this issue in Queanbeyan is well beyond the [financial means of the] Council, and I welcome Commonwealth or NSW Government support to find a final solution to this complex public health issue.

"I'll be seeking further meetings with Commonwealth representatives and the NSW premier to further discuss the matter, and the need for a mandatory survey of all properties in Queanbeyan built prior to 1980 that would be need to be funded by other levels of government. It's beyond our resources," he said.

Mr Barilaro has also petitioned the premier and finance minister Dominic Perrottet on the issue, and said the State Government had recently appointed an asbestos officer through the Division of Local Government to coordinate information and liaise with local councils.

"This isn't just affecting my electorate-there's homes that have been identified at the coast, we've heard of homes being identified at Wagga. This is now bigger than a single electorate issue," Mr Barilaro said.

However he said ultimately it would be an issue for the Commonwealth to resolve.

"I think it's going to be one of those ongoing issues that we'll have to keep responding to over a long period of time. But we've definitely been proactive on it," he said.

"But unless the federal government comes to the party, this is going to be a hard issue to resolve in the short term."

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