Substantial finds of loose-fill asbestos at Holbrook require a tailored response

ASBESTOS – the very word conjures up alarm.

You don’t have to be in the building industry to know that the mineral fibre poses potentially fatal respiratory health risks if not carefully handled.

Though it has not always been the case; asbestos was mined in Australia for decades and was used in an array of building goods ranging from window putty to wall sheeting.

The flexibility of asbestos means that it featured in some form in most houses built before the 1980s and continued to be in materials that were used through the following decade.

It was only in the 1990s that the dangers lurking in asbestos were fully realised and in 2003 a national ban on the manufacture and use of all varieties of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials took effect.

Sadly despite this action, the legacy of asbestos will continue to haunt both those who toiled with it, such as former workers at building products manufacturer James Hardie, and those who live with it.

The latter category covers residents who have learnt their houses contain loose-fill asbestos, a situation now facing five per cent of Holbrook homes.

More than a year of testing of properties at the Greater Hume Shire town has seen 33 of them deemed positive.

It is a remarkable tally when you consider Holbrook has a population of only 1200 and the sole place with a larger positive result is Queanbeyan, which had 60 but is home to 38,000 people.

Naturally the outcome has raised concerns.

A key one is the impact of the NSW Government’s voluntary purchase and demolition scheme set up to deal with homes affected by loose-fill asbestos.

Under the program, two independent valuations are done and the average price is offered to the home owner.

With the age of affected Holbrook homes, some valuations have been in the $70,000s and there is a concern owners will be shut out of the real estate market with prices generally $100,000-plus.

Greater Hume Shire clearly does not want to lose any residents and is concerned at how the process plays out.

It has welcomed NSW Innovation and Better Regulation Minister Matt Kean opting to visit Holbrook within the next fortnight.

Hopefully he will realise Holbrook should be given particular help, given the extent the cursed legacy of asbestos has had on it. 

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