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‘Unprecedented’ Asbestos Pares Back Park Plans

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Today (11 June) the Community and Natural Environment Committee approved a budget extension of $954,000 to safely remove newly discovered asbestos at Founders Theatre.

Despite intense, invasive asbestos surveys carried out before work began, further discoveries of the material in unusual places have added time and cost to the project.

The budget extension includes a contingency for possible asbestos in the basement, and brings the total stage one budget to $3.65 million. Stage one involves complete demolition of the building and returning the site to grass.

The remainder of the total $4.1 million redevelopment budget ($510,000) will fund a more simple development of Boyes Park, prioritising pathways and restoring the Dame Hilda Ross Memorial Fountain.

Mayor Paula Southgate said “the building was unfortunately in worse shape than had been assumed. The safe removal of asbestos must be our top priority.

“Council is still focused on creating a beautiful park space for the community but we'll have to keep it simple, to keep within Council’s budget.”

Changes to the building over time have hidden the amount of asbestos present. In the last three months, asbestos has been found in four areas that were inaccessible before work began. This includes wrapped around old pipes set in concrete, in wall cavities and in both the stagehouse and auditorium roofs.

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For the contractors working on the project, the age and structure of the building have made asbestos removal more challenging. Structural integrity risks must be carefully managed alongside the very time consuming manual asbestos removal tasks for each new area.

Bruce Levin, Yakka Contracting Director, said for his team, while it is not unusual to find additional asbestos during demolition, the additional discoveries and places asbestos has been found on this project are totally unprecedented.

In relation to the roof sections, which have contained the largest amounts of unforeseen asbestos, he said “In 17 years of demolition projects, we have never come across this usage of asbestos before”.

Council’s independent asbestos assessors, Thomas Consultants, stated that the use of asbestos under roof sheeting is "extremely unusual and not easily identified in a pre-demolition asbestos survey. It is only through the removal of materials during the demolition phase that the new asbestos has been found”.

Stage one is now expected to be completed in August.

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