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The government of New South Wales (NSW) has allotted $280 million dollars for the voluntary buy back and rebuild of the homes containing Mr. Fluffy loose-fill asbestos in the insulation. Over 1,000 homes were affected, with 511 of them located in NSW, from the late 60s into the late 70s when the company went under.
This new plan is in response to the previously proposed $1 billion by the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government in October 2014, to finance and purchase the demolition of the asbestos-ridden homes in Canberra that were deemed unsafe to live in.
“The only way to solve the Mr. Fluffy saga once and for all is to demolish affected houses,” said Katy Gallagher, former ACT Chief Minister. “For Mr. Fluffy homeowners, we believe this program will offer a fair and flexible solution, which will remove the risk of loose-fill asbestos not only to homeowners and tenants, but to the broader community.”
The NSW plan lets homeowners decide if they would like to demolish and rebuild or sell the land in hopes of solving previously failed cleanup efforts. Ten thousand dollars will be given to each for relocation and another $850 for counseling services.
“While NSW have been able to offer homeowners the options of an assisted demolition, this wasn’t a viable option for the ACT government due to the scale of the problem,” said an ACT spokesperson. “The ACT has had to take a $1 billion loan from the Commonwealth for the program, which is a fifth of our entire budget.”
Asbestos exposure cases like this can lead to the aggressive cancer mesothelioma, but may not lead to a disease diagnosis for years to come. Mesothelioma cancer can take decades to be found. Imaging scans and biopsies should be completed to confirm its presence and determine the level and severity.
The work will begin in the NSW suburb with the highest concentration of affected 52+ homes in Queanbeyan. Of Canberra homes affected, 0.8% have the loose-fill asbestos and many reside on large, rural blocks. In total, 1,021 homes were identified by the ACT as home containing Mr. Fluffy asbestos, with others in Yass, Orange, Bankstown, and Manly, accounting for 66 of those located in NSW.
The NSW will also create a public registry of affected homes. After the ACT proposal, the list of homes was not made public in hopes of giving homeowners more time to consider the buy back without having the location of their home publicly-known. A spokeswoman of the ACT taskforce had stated she was “disappointed if the company’s mail-out has created distress for homeowners.”
In addition, the NSW will also now hold mandatory testing in homes of the identified Mr. Fluffy areas built before the 1980s as tests conducted in 2014 in many of the homes found levels of asbestos that were deemed unsafe in living areas, children’s bedding, toys, and clothes.
“This package will provide safety, certainty, and support for our citizens and an enduring solution,” said Dominic Perrottet, NSW Finance Minister.