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Undamaged asbestos may be left behind

Last updated 07:59 11/03/2013

MICHAEL WRIGHT

Earthquake-hit homeowners getting asbestos removed from their houses may have no choice but to leave some of the dangerous substance behind.

House repairs managed and paid for by the Earthquake Commission (EQC) can include asbestos removal, but only if the building material is damaged or deteriorating.

Owners cannot get asbestos removed from their homes while repairs are being done if it is good condition, even if they are willing to pay for it.

Asbestos removal contractors have slammed the policy as "pathetic" and called for homeowners to be granted leeway as they now are with insulation.

EQC last week announced homeowners could install wall and floor insulation in their houses while quake repairs were being done.

The practice was previously disallowed because of the risk of cost and time overruns.

An EQC spokesman said there were "significant differences" between insulation and asbestos.

The latter was "typically readily accessible and poses no health risk while undisturbed", whereas with insulation "the opening of difficult to access cavities during repairs presents an opportunity to make an improvement to the comfort and health of the house".

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Homeowners could pay to have the undamaged asbestos removed separately later.

One Christchurch homeowner, who did not want to be named, said the rigid policy was "ridiculous", and meant a small amount of asbestos would stay in their house while most was removed.

"This . . . is equally as important [as insulation]. Even more so. It's more health and safety. If you've asbestos in your house that's breaking down they will fix it, but if it's whole they won't touch it."

Bricon Asbestos Removal director Brent Blackie said the rule, especially for small amounts an owner was prepared to pay for, made no sense.

"I can understand [EQC] have a time line to do things done. If an asbestos contractor is holding them up from repairs I can understand [but] outright saying no, it can't be done, I can't see where that mentality comes from."

New Zealand Demolition and Asbestos Association president Alan Edge said it was "common sense" to allow extra asbestos removal if a property owner wanted to pay for it.

The association was meeting the Government this week and would raise the issue, he said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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