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Asbestos scandal deepens

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Wentworth Falls Pre-School Kindergarten. Photo: Melinda Jane

It’s been a big few weeks for Blue Mountains City Council after a number of explosive claims revealed Council may have ignored asbestos issues at numerous local sites in the region.

2GB’s Ray Hadley said leaked reports suggest Council were aware of asbestos at a number of properties, including Wentworth Falls Pre-School Kindergarten, but took no action to fix the problem.

After the news broke on Hadley’s program, Council posted a lengthy fact sheet to their Facebook page acknowledging that the safety, health and wellbeing of the community and their employees are of paramount importance to them.

The fact sheet also stated that Council is not in the position to make detailed comments about the allegations that have been made about them until current investigations are completed.

At Council’s last ordinary meeting on November 14, it was resolved that they would appoint an independent investigator to look into the matter.
Greens Councillor Kerry Brown said she is disappointed by Council’s response.

“I don’t think an investigation run by Council’s lawyers and therefore subject to legal professional privilege will pass the pub test as an ‘independent’ inquiry,” she said.

“I think that the staff and the public would be more comfortable with an independent body investigating.”

Cr Brown said all Councillors are still being kept in the dark about the issue.

“I have been repeatedly refused copies of the terms of reference for the asbestos inquiry,” she said.

“The inquiry and its terms of reference were the subject of a mayoral minute at the meeting this month.

“We had half an hour to look at them and other mayoral minutes, but we were not allowed to keep copies. That is ridiculous!”

Cr Brown said she is hopeful that Council will choose to make this crisis an opportunity for change.

“I would like to see us step up immediately and resource our work, health and safety so that it qualifies for Australian Standards 4801 accreditation,” she said.

“The accreditation would mean Council’s safety management, including of asbestos, was regularly checked by independent auditors who would advise on corrective actions as necessary.

“I proposed this at the last Council meeting and it was rejected, but I will continue to push for it.”