City of Sydney refused to test for asbestos when urged a month ago

City of Sydney refused to test for asbestos when urged a month ago
Image: Harmony Park closures due to asbestos discovery. Photo: Mark Dickson



The City of Sydney was urged to test for asbestos a month ago, when the carcinogenic material was found in Rozelle Parklands, but refused to do so on the basis of a contractor wrongly assuring them that their mulch did not come from the affected supplier.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said it would have been unreasonable to test all the parks in the municipality after the contractor’s assurances.

“The City has over 400 parks and thousands of garden beds,” said the Lord Mayor. “To request that each of these sites be tested when there was no indication there was an issue is not a reasonable request.”

She further questioned why a “separate standard” was being applied to the City when the State Government had not been testing affected sites at schools, hospitals parks prior to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) investigation.

Labor Councillor Linda Scott, who had written to the City’s CEO on January 13, just days after Rozelle Parklands tested positive for asbestos contamination, said many residents had contacted her with concerns.

“Will the City be undertaking any soil or mulch testing in response to the discovery of asbestos at the Rozelle Parklands? I would appreciate if we could do so, given the community concern and serious risk to health as a result of the discovery of asbestos”, wrote the councillor on January 13.

This request was declined.

Councillor Scott told City Hub, “The Lord Mayor and City of Sydney must support my calls for an independent inquiry into how the council let toxic asbestos into our most loved public spaces, and for all Sydney parks to be tested, not a small few.”

“Lord Mayor Clover Moore must stop putting spin over safety.”

At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Councillor Shauna Jarrett said that the Lord Mayor’s failure to order an audit was “laziness” and “ineptitude” on her part.

But City of Sydney has argued that once they became aware of asbestos contamination in Rozelle Parklands, they “sought and received assurances” that the supplier did not use the same mulch, and that once EPA discovered asbestos in the City’s parks, they began working “immediately” to investigate other sites.

Many have criticised the council for failing to put up fences around affected areas for more than 12 hours after staff were alerted.

Councillor Scott described it as “completely unacceptable.”

But Lord Mayor Clover Moore has remained steadfast, saying, “It’s easy for Opposition to point the finger of blame to grab a quick headline, but I’m proud of our efficient and effective response to an issue that is not just facing the City, but myriad sites across NSW and one that will require a comprehensive response from the EPA and State Government.”

The discovery of bonded asbestos at Victoria Park, with inadequate time for thorough cleaning, has meant that the Mardi Gras Fair Day, planned for this Sunday, has had to be cancelled. 

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