5 Dec 2013

Asbestos risk in rebuild unprecedented - experts

8:49 pm on 5 December 2013

Australian asbestos experts say the potential contamination problems facing earthquake-hit Christchurch are on a scale they have never seen before.

Speaking at an asbestos conference in the city on Thursday, local and international experts addressed a crowd of hundreds about the challenges of managing the hazardous material during the rebuild.

Craig Simmons, director of construction services for the Australian Capital Territory government, said he was blown away by the magnitude of the damage to homes in Christchurch.

Mr Simmons said the potential for asbestos contamination in the city is staggering and it is crucial that it's managed properly.

He said the Government and the trades sector seem to be responding well, with forums like Thursday's providing much needed information and advice.

Australian professor and asbestos expert, Bill Musk, said he is also shocked by the scale of quake damage and the huge potential for contamination.

He said New Zealand needs to completely ban the importation of asbestos as the Australian government has done.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment spokesperson Kathryn Heiler said there are still too many cases where asbestos is being poorly managed.