Asbestos is a litigious word

The hideous consequences of asbestos continue to haunt people and communities long after its use was banned.

About 70 people have had to evacuate their homes at Kiama after a violent storm at the weekend dumped asbestos and other building materials from a leisure centre in their neighbourhood.

An exclusion zone has been established and it will be Wednesday before they are likely to be allowed to return home. The clean-up is underway and there will be no long term dramas.

Near Barraba, however, where an abandoned asbestos mine poses ongoing risks a resolution is not so simple.

The dangerous nature of asbestos and the exposure threat which still exists at the Woodsreef mine is the reason Tamworth Regional Council is likely to resolve to close Mine Rd (formerly Crow Mountain Rd) at its meeting tonight.

Asbestos is coated in litigation and that is the concern consuming the council on the road issue.

Residents of the area who use the road don’t want it closed. That’s an understandable position because of the level of inconvenience its closure will cause.

Council has empathy for the road users, most of whom are residents of the nearby area who use the road to access the town. The alternative route means further to travel, adding costs in time and money.

The reality is, however, the council is being forced to act. It says it has an obligation to protect the community and because it has no insurance if there are claims made by road users who could contract asbestos-related illnesses, its hands are tired.

The clean-up of the Woodsreef mine site remains a work in progress. It has been identified as “an environmental disaster” by the NSW Ombudsman who has said in a previous report significant money needs to be spent to clean-up the area and make it safe.

The Mine Rd closure relates specifically to the risk and is a decision the NSW government should make, not the council.

It needs to take responsibility for the Woodsreef site and the long-awaited clean-up won’t happen unless the government presses the funding buttons to get work underway.

Meanwhile, residents of the area live with the hazards, and the consequences, which won’t go away.

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