Households affected by loose-fill asbestos across NSW will now have access to a number of new services, according to the state government.
Asbestos, a material linked with deadly lung diseases such as silicosis and mesothelioma, has been in the headlines recently, as more people become aware of the threat.
On Friday (December 19), NSW Minister for Finance and Services Dominic Perrottet said the government’s top priority is to keep residents safe.
“This is why we are taking comprehensive action, based on our health advice, to ensure affected owners and residents have the support they need,” he explained.
“This includes both a ‘Make Safe’ Assistance Package for affected properties and the establishment of a Loose Fill Asbestos Insulation Taskforce.”
According to Mr Perrottet, the taskforce will formulate a plan on the best way to tackle NSW’s asbestos problem, as well as guide the government in implementing such projects.
Ideas currently under consideration include the purchase and demolition of affected houses in the state – an approach the ACT government has used with positive results.
The taskforce will include delegates from the Environment Protection Authority, the Department of Planning and Environment, the Ministry of Health, WorkCover NSW and Local Government NSW.
Make Safe assistance
In addition to the taskforce, the government is looking to provide immediate assistance with the Make Safe initiative.
“This package provides financial support for sealing of cavities, environmental cleaning of habitable areas, hazard labelling and regular inspections,” Mr Perrottet stated.
“Support will also be provided for counselling services, assistance towards the replacement of furnishings and, where required, emergency accommodation.”
The new measures are broadly aligned with recommendations made earlier this month following a NSW parliamentary inquiry into the asbestos issue.
An interim report by the panel cited the ACT government as a shining example of how the deadly material should be handled in order to secure the safety of citizens.
The ACT government received a $1 billion loan to help buy back houses fitted with loose-fill asbestos insulation in the 1960s and 1970s. These homes will be demolished to reduce the threat to local residents.
However, NSW has yet to receive similar financial support from the Commonwealth, making it unclear how the state would fund a similar scheme should its taskforce decide on this plan of action.
“Unfortunately, families have been caught in the middle, but our resolute focus is about ensuring the safety of all residents to improve long term health and safety outcomes,” Mr Perrottet commented.