990 government buildings, including 187 ‘education assets’ still have asbestos

Herald Sun – Northern Territory, 2 August 2021

Thomas Morgan

‘A shocking number of NT government buildings still have asbestos, including the majority of ‘education assets’.

 

THE Northern Territory government still owns nearly a thousand buildings containing deadly asbestos, including the vast majority of schools and other ‘education assets’.

Progress to remove the mineral from school grounds has seemingly stalled, with the last removal being made in 2019 according to the government.

In response to a recent question on notice, the Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics Minister Eva Lawler has revealed 990 buildings owned by the NT government were either confirmed or “presumed” to have asbestos in some form.

Over 100 of those were “education assets,” her department has told the NT News,

and only three of the 187 “assets” owned by the government have had asbestos removed.

The question in NT Estimates was asked by Blain MLA Mark Turner.

The figure excluded contamination on vacant crown land, NT government-owned residential buildings and buildings the government leases.

The revelations come after a number of government projects, such as the Myilly Point Park and the State Square redevelopment, faced whopping cost blowouts due to expensive remediation.

A spokeswoman for Ms Lawler said in a brief statement there was no immediate need to demolish the 990 buildings, as asbestos was safe if undisturbed.

“If a building containing asbestos needs to be demolished then these costs are factored into the budget,” the spokeswoman said.

But Ms Lawler’s department admitted 115 of the 187 ‘education assets’ owned by the NT government contained asbestos, working out to nearly 60 per cent.

Her office outlined that only three of the 187 assets had asbestos removed over an unspecified period of time, and the last school to have asbestos removed was in 2019.

Ms Lawler’s office provided information to suggest all buildings were assessed every five years.

CLP Education spokeswoman Jo Hersey said more action and transparency was needed around asbestos removals.

“We’d like to see details of the Gunner Government’s asbestos removal program – and if education facilities are included, they should be a priority,” Ms Hersey said.

“The fact the last asbestos removal at a Territory school was in 2019 is telling.”

Ms Hersey said it was “little wonder” the last removal was in 2019, claiming the financial state of the NT had made further projects unviable.

Nearly 1000 buildings owned by the NT Government still had asbestos
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