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Asbestos being removed from Matiu/Somes Island

6 September, 2005

Asbestos being removed from Matiu/Somes Island

Work begins on September 12 to remove and replace asbestos material from buildings on Matiu/Somes Island in Wellington Harbour.

The Department of Conservation has awarded a contract for the work to Palmerston North-based contractors Aldridge and Co. The team undertaking the 14-week project will be led by an operator certified by the Department of Labour as competent to remove asbestos.

The island, a historic and scientific reserve managed by DOC, will remain open to the public while the work is in progress, with the construction area cordoned off and signposted, Poneke Area manager Peter Simpson said.

A traffic management plan will be put in place by the contractor to ensure safety on the road between the wharf and construction site when material is brought in and taken off the island by barge.

Access to the public will be restricted to the track around the perimeter and to the top of the island. There will be no access to the visitor centre as this is within the construction site. There are public toilets at the wharf area. A track has been opened up to access the summit of the island during dry weather only.”

“The contractor will be using approved precautions to ensure their work poses no danger to public visiting the island,” Mr Simpson said.

The work, costing around $500,000, involves removing asbestos material from five houses and staff units, and the five buildings associated with the former Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries quarantine facility - the workshop, generator shed, maximum quarantine building, recreation hall/feed store and the ova transplant building.

The asbestos roofing on the workshop, generator shed, maximum quarantine building, recreation hall/feed store and the ova transplant building, will be replaced with aluminium roofing. Asbestos wall material will be replaced with cement fibre board sheet and painted. Asbestos-containing gutters and downpipes on these buildings will be replaced with a new spouting system.

All the affected buildings will also be decontaminated to a standard that can be certified free from asbestos contamination.

“We are keen to ensure that this popular island reserve is safe for both the public and staff,” Mr Simpson said.

“Although the asbestos cladding on the island housing was stable, we have decided to also replace this with cement fibre board sheets.”

DOC closed the island earlier this year following the discovery of asbestos flakes from the roofs of five buildings associated with the former quarantine facility. It had since re-opened although the affected areas have been off-limits to the public.

Regional Medical Officer of Health Dr Stephen Palmer said it was timely to alert the public to the need to use approved asbestos removal contractors if they are carrying out maintenance work involving asbestos materials.

“Drilling or sawing that disturbs or damages the material can lead to fibres being released into the air and this may pose a health hazard. It’s important that people use approved contractors to undertake this work.”

Booklets about asbestos - All about asbestos and Removing asbestos from the home can be downloaded from the Ministry of Health's health information website - www.healthed.govt.nz and are available at District Health Board Public Health Units.

The Department of Labour publishes health and safety guidelines to manage risk associated with moving asbestos. Guidelines for the management and removal of asbestos can be found on the department’s website: www.dol.govt.nz.

For more information about Matiu/Somes Island check out the DOC website: www.doc.govt.nz (explore > other places > Wellington > Matiu/Somes Island.)

ENDS

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