Asbestos loose in NSW Parks and reserves: Labor calls on dozing O'Farrell to approve emergency state audit and decontamination plan

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In light of this morning's harrowing revelations of loose asbestos in NSW parks and reserves, the NSW Labor Opposition is calling on Barry O'Farrell to initiate an emergency statewide audit and decontamination plan.

As reported today, Australians face a major public health threat from the illegal dumping of asbestos - with tonnes found in skip bins, rubbish tips and public reserves and conservation areas.

  • "There are people who are not even born yet that will come down with asbestos-related diseases because of this." Barry Robson, president of Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia.

"There should be no greater environmental priority for Barry O'Farrell than the immediate lockdown of loose asbestos," Shadow Environment Minister Luke Foley said today.

"In light of this morning's harrowing revelations, the NSW Labor Opposition calls on the Premier to enact an emergency statewide audit and decontamination plan.

"NSW needs a public register of all loose asbestos found in parks, reserves and other Crown land – it beggars belief that no such mechanism currently exists. In addition, a specific asbestos hotline should be created to enable the community to report discoveries.

"Illegal asbestos dumping poses a clear and present public health risk if allowed to continue unchecked. While there is nothing we can do about the thousands of tragic asbestos-related diseases and fatalities, the Government must act decisively to prevent a whole new generation from being exposed."

The O'Farrell Government has cut back enforcement efforts against illegal dumping. This financial year, it has budgeted for regional illegal dumping squads to issue only 800 penalty notices compared with 910 the previous year – a 14 percent reduction.

"Illegal dumping squads track down and prosecute people who dump asbestos, rubbish and abandon furniture and cars," Mr Foley said.

"At a time when the amount of loose asbestos in NSW is skyrocketing, it makes no sense for the Government to wind back the vital work of tracking down and prosecuting the people who dump it.

"The problem of illegal asbestos dumping has clearly got away from the O'Farrell Government under the hapless oversight of Robyn Parker. This is a public health issue that demands the full attention of the Environment Minister and the Environment Protection Authority. Incredibly, NSW is still without a Chief Environment Regulator leading the fight.

"Robyn Parker has also legislated to remove community representatives, environmental scientists and local councils from the Environment Protection Authority Board who supply vital on the ground knowledge.

"The Government must beef up resources to tackle illegal asbestos dumping. Barry O'Farrell needs to pull rank over his flailing Minister and commit to a statewide audit and decontamination plan today."