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Asbestos worries

LAUREN PRIESTLEY
Last updated 05:00 18/12/2013
Abestos
SPEAK UP: Yvonne Dainty says Housing New Zealand needs to communicate with Glen Innes residents about the health risk from asbestos.

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Fearful residents are calling for better consultation from Housing New Zealand as state homes containing asbestos are removed from Glen Innes.

Fernwood Place residents saw masked workers from asbestos removal contractor Nikau surrounding a state house that was being removed in September, as part of the Northern Glen Innes Redevelopment Project.

Community members have since been on the phone to Tamaki Housing Group member Yvonne Dainty, concerned that neighbours are not being notified about the dangers of asbestos as the house removals continue.

Information released to the East & Bays Courier under the Official Information Act shows there are 700 houses owned by Housing New Zealand in Glen Innes that are likely to contain asbestos.

The real problem is not the asbestos but the lack of communication, Mrs Dainty says.

"There was a neighbour next door with their windows wide open and very little understanding of what was happening.

"They were completely unaware. How many more times is this going to happen?

"Everyone should have been notified at least. No-one wants to take a chance with their life."

Mrs Dainty went door-knocking to alert tenants so they could decide if they wanted to leave the area while the work was being carried out.

"Why do residents always have to be the last people to know? It's dangerous."

Mrs Dainty says the fact the houses are old and some contain asbestos is not a good reason to get rid of them.

"Asbestos is not a reason for more development to take place here. These houses are liveable and safe as they are. It's only unsafe once it has been exposed."

There are about 16,000 Housing New Zealand properties nationwide that are likely to contain traces of asbestos.

Housing New Zealand asset development manager Sean Bignell says the fact 700 of those are in Glen Innes comes down to the age of the buildings there.

The corporation has strict procedures for dealing with asbestos to ensure there is no danger to the public and has been advised that asbestos is only unsafe when it is airborne as dust.

The Housing New Zealand website provides information about what tenants can do to keep themselves safe while contractors are working on houses. Any concerned residents should contact Housing New Zealand directly, Mr Bignell says.

"When we remove and/or renovate an older house we ensure the site is cleared of any asbestos products.

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"This is a process that requires technical expertise and controlled procedures.

"It is not an ad hoc or casual process by any stretch," he says.

The Auckland Regional Public Health Services offers advice to the public about asbestos including recommending testing where it is suspected, advising of the need for specialised renovators and information about health risks.

See arphs.govt.nz or phone 623 4600.

WHAT IS ASBESTOS

Asbestos is the name given to a group of naturally occurring minerals which were widely used in industrial products in New Zealand until the mid-1980s.

Products and materials containing asbestos are still found in some buildings built before 1984.

Inhalation of asbestos fibres when materials are sanded, sawn, drilled, broken or handled during removal work can pose a potentially fatal health risk.

Products containing asbestos are safe if they have been sealed with a coat of paint, remain intact and are not disturbed.

Go to arphs.govt.nz and search asbestos for more information.

- East And Bays Courier

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