Mix of relief and upset as asbestos removal work paused at school

Amy Baker/STUFF.CO.NZ

Parent Lea Ann Case says her family is "relieved" the removal has been put on hold.

Parents of children at a West Auckland school are "relieved" their concerns have been listened to as planned asbestos removal work is put on hold until school holidays.

In the wake of parent protest and children absent from school on Monday, the Ministry of Education and Hobsonville Primary School's board of trustees released a statement saying they have decided to pause further work on the site.

Head of the education infrastructure service, Kim Shannon, and chairperson of the school's board of trustees, Lance Norman, say the next logical opportunity to remove the asbestos will be during the Easter school holidays. 

The street beside the school on which the drop off zone is being constructed.
Amy Baker

The street beside the school on which the drop off zone is being constructed.

However, not all the work will be able to carried out during that time, and will take an estimated three to four weeks. 

READ MORE:
* Children absent from school amid fears of imminent asbestos removal
* Asbestos removal to go ahead at West Auckland school despite parent protest

A parent, who does not wish to be named, says they're glad that people's concerns have been listened to.

The work at the school is now expected to take place in the April holidays.
Renee Clayton

The work at the school is now expected to take place in the April holidays.

"That's the main thing we're happy with. It may only be a minority, but that minority has been heard."

They say their principal concern was about the asbestos becoming airborne before air monitors had had a chance to pick it up - "because then, what do you do?"

The parent, who kept their child off school on Monday, says they're happy with the new decision to begin removing the dirt in the April holidays, even though the work will run at least a week on to the following term.  

Around 50 children missed school yesterday, however board of trustees Lance Norman says parents of the other 90 per cent ...
Amy Baker

Around 50 children missed school yesterday, however board of trustees Lance Norman says parents of the other 90 per cent were happy for the work to start.

"If you think logistically, they'll be digging the dirt out for two weeks and filling the hole in for one," they say. 

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"I'm quite happy for my daughter to be at school when they're filling it in, just not when they're digging it out."

Norman says more than 50 children were absent from school yesterday, but points out more than 500 kids were present. 

"Ninety per cent of the students turned up, even though there were some absolutely differing views in the media and the public domain at the moment, but [those parents] were happy to say, 'Remove that product.'"

It is not known if the absent children were ill or staying away in case of asbestos removal. 

He says there is no "win-win situation" as now 50 parents and a similar number of staff members are unhappy to leave the product where it is for yet more time.

Norman says some children were also upset, as they were now frightened the asbestos was not going to be removed straight away. 

Even with the project on pause, he says he doesn't know if parents against the removal will ultimately be satisfied, given the work will run longer than the holiday period.

Original investigations, Norman says, pointed to removing it safely straight away to mitigate risk of children or animals getting into the site and creating disturbance.

School land is owned by the Ministry of Education, and they are developing the land beside the school for the drop off zone.

The contaminated soil - around 700 tonnes - was discovered in November last year when construction on the zone started. 

Parent Lea Ann Case, who also kept her daughter off school yesterday, describes her family as "extremely relieved" at the outcome to postpone the work.

"We don't debate that the works need to be done - we completely understand that - we want it to happen. It's just a matter of when it's going to happen.

"We're hoping that the next step will be to, kind of be in on the plan as to when it's going to happen, and just not have the kids around," Case says. 

"I think there are other options, and now those options can finally be explored."

She says her biggest concerns were the proximity of the site to the school and feared putting her daughter "in harm's way and knowing that I could prevent it".

The removal contractor was originally not available to carry out the work during the April break period. 

The dumpsite also closed in the early afternoon, creating restrictions on the hours which could be worked during the day. 

 

 - North Harbour News

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