20 November 2019

Carrot and stick package aims to wrap up Mr Fluffy saga

| Ian Bushnell
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Mr Fluffy warning sign

There are 37 Mr Fluffy homes remaining in the ACT. Photo: File.

The remaining Mr Fluffy owners will be given a ‘pathway’ to demolishing their properties with a new carrot-and-stick package of measures announced in a bid bring the loose-fill asbestos saga to an end.

With 978 affected properties fully demolished since the ACT Government introduced its buyback scheme in 2014 and the scheme due to wind up at the end of the financial year, the Government has announced its Pathways to Eradication Package on Tuesday for the remaining 37 properties.

The measures will assist homeowners to leave, but those who remain will face restrictions on what they can do with their properties and a ban on any new occupant.

They will also have to display a notice outside their homes that there is loose-fill asbestos present in the property, which the Government says is necessary so people can make an informed decision about entering the property.

Transition Assistance will provide homeowners who have complex health or financial circumstances the ability to access the equity in their home to assist them to move to new accommodation.

Additional Asbestos Management Plan (AMP) requirements will make it easier for tradespeople, care workers and visitors to know that asbestos is present when attending an affected property.

Development and Building Approval restrictions will be imposed to limit building activity at affected properties to essential maintenance and safety works.

An Occupancy Prohibition will be introduced for new owners and tenants to prevent affected properties being occupied following ownership transfer or the end of a rental agreement.

Minister for Employment and Workplace Safety Suzanne Orr said the package sought to assist the remaining homeowners and address the continuing risk posed to the community by loose-fill asbestos.

“Since 2014, the Loose Fill Asbestos Insulation Eradication Scheme has helped to remove 95 per cent of the 1024 identified Mr Fluffy affected properties from the Canberra community. The total net cost of the scheme is expected to be around $300 million,” she said.

“Remaining affected properties continue to put the occupiers and members of the broader community, who may enter the property, at risk of exposure to loose-fill asbestos insulation.

“This Package supports homeowners to manage their transition to new living arrangements and take necessary actions to minimise the risk of exposure to themselves and anyone attending their property.”

But the Government believes the only enduring solution to the existence of loose-fill asbestos in the ACT is demolition of affected properties, and will move to compulsorily acquire the properties if homeowners do not arrange for demolition before mid-2025.

Compulsory acquisition will be on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration the specific circumstances of each remaining homeowner or resident.

Head of the Asbestos Response Taskforce Geoff Rutledge said the package balanced the needs of homeowners and the need to keep the community safe, rejecting claims the measures were punitive.

He said there had been concerns from people such as GPs, community workers and tradespeople about entering the properties and the Taskforce had worked to overcome specific barriers to the homeowners leaving, including health and financial reasons.

“I’m very hopeful that compulsory acquisition will not occur but what we do need is certainty for both residents and the community that the scourge of loose-fill asbestos will end at 2025,” he said.

“With this suite of measures well be able to assist them to find a path out.”

He said any new properties found with loose-fill asbestos such as the recent one in Curtin would be dealt with as they emerged.

Homeowners will be contacted by the Taskforce to discuss these initiatives, what it means for them, and how the Taskforce can support them in the lead-up to 30 June 2020.

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