7th February 2008
For Immediate Use
Union Calls For Decontamination Action Plan In Patea
The union representing primary school and kindergarten staff wants an assurance that schools and kindergartens in the south Taranaki town of Patea will be thoroughly decontaminated before children and staff are allowed to return.
The town’s two schools – Patea Area School and St Josephs, as well as the local kindergarten – are closed over concerns about possible asbestos contamination following yesterday’s massive fire at the town’s derelict freezing works.
The fire spread toxic smoke over large areas of the town, and staff at Patea Area School has reported ash deposits in the playground and on playing equipment.
The education union, NZEI Te Riu Roa says Ministry of Health testing is underway to try and assess contamination levels in the town but it is not clear who would be responsible for any clean up operation.
NZEI Central Region Secretary Carol Parker says “we know from other asbestos emergencies and research just how dangerous asbestos contamination is. We must safeguard the town's children and our teacher and support staff members from any such possibility.”
NZEI says the health and safety of children and staff is paramount and the schools and kindergarten must not reopen until a decontamination plan is put in place and carried through.
It says there must then be further health testing to ensure there is absolutely no risk of asbestos exposure for students or school and kindergarten staff.