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Asbestos; New Zealand’s Recurring Nightmare

In the 1930’s when NZ first started using asbestos, it seemed like the answer to a range of problems. Instead, it has become a nightmare.

Asbestos is easily available, a fire retardant, and it’s cheap to use. This made it perfect for a huge range of building uses. In the 60-ish years of use in NZ, however, it’s caused illness and needless deaths. Even now, 30 years after it was banned, it’s still causing massive issues on a regular basis.

When ‘A Quick Favour’ Turns into an Expensive Asbestos Problem

A Christchurch painter was water blasting window frames in preparation for painting when the homeowner asked him to pop up on the roof and blast the roof too. The painter decided to do it; after all, it wouldn’t take long to help out the homeowner. However, a neighbour realised the roofing tiles were asbestos and alerted the council. The run-off tested positive for asbestos.

The owner had to leave the house for months while the house was decontaminated, the carpet had to be replaced, and the interior of the house repainted. While the house insurance covered most of the costs arising from this, the painter had to stump up $5,000 to cover the excess and related costs.

On top of this cost, the stress and worry caused by this, to both the homeowner and the painter, has been overwhelming.

Godley Head Campsite Closed Indefinitely

Godley Head, a popular walking and camping destination just out of Christchurch, was closed in April 2021. Roads to the camping area were tested before the upcoming resealing work was started. Remediation will take place, but as of mid-2022, it was still closed. It is expected that the asbestos was from the buildings in the area that may have asbestos testing containing roofing or are linked to the coal tar in the area.

The discovery of asbestos in roads and surrounding areas is a health risk to workers but also to the general public. The airborne fibres are easily inhaled and can be tremendously damaging to health- there are no ‘safe’ levels of asbestos inhalation.

$100K Bill for Auckland Ratepayers for Dumped Asbestos

In Waimauku, multiple piles of illegally dumped rubbish contained asbestos. They all came from the same source, and is likely that the person who dumped them knew it was asbestos. Correct disposal of asbestos containing materials do attract larger fees than typical building waste, and the dumpers were likely trying to avoid this.

Kawerau Housing Development Costs Increase by $700K So Far

A new housing development in Kawerau found asbestos on a number of sites. This asbestos was likely from the demolition of a school that was built in the 1950’s. While the development cost is likely to be borne by the local council, over time, local ratepayers will end up shouldering the cost.

As the project continues, further testing finds more sites are contaminated with asbestos. The costs continue to mount, and with most sites already sold, there’s no chance of recouping the costs from within the project.

Asbestos in NZ’s Drinking Water

NZ has around 9,000 km of concrete and asbestos water piping that is eroding. Tests in 35 locations across Christchurch resulted in the identification of asbestos leaching into the water, and it’s expected that these results will be replicated across NZ. This piping will cost around $2.2 billion to replace.

Many of NZ’s drinking water supplies are low in magnesium and calcium, which leads to faster degradation of the piping, making the routine replacement of these pipes much more urgent.

While asbestos levels in water are deemed to be ‘safe’ so far, there’s no real research into the ingestion of asbestos. A recent report suggested a correlation between gastric and colorectal cancer and ingested asbestos. Despite this, there are no immediate health concerns for Kiwis, but asbestos-containing pipes are more highly prioritised for replacement than other types.

Don’t Muck Around with Asbestos

If you have asbestos in your home, don’t try to manage it yourself. If you are wanting to carry out renovations or repairs, use the professionals. Using trained and qualified asbestos removal technicians means that you have a stress-free experience, and there will be no problems in the future with soil or air contamination.

If you’re not sure if something has asbestos in it, get the materials checked and tested for asbestos. It can be present in a huge range of building materials – don’t risk contaminating your home.



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