ACT News

Googong and Tralee the winners from ACT asbestos Fluffy buyback, says real Estate Institute

The new NSW suburbs of Googong and Tralee will be the winners from the Mr Fluffy buyback, the head of the Real Estate Institute of the ACT, Ron Bell, has warned, with little land available in the ACT.

Also on Friday, an inquiry into the Fluffy buyback and demolition heard that about 300,000 cubic metres of asbestos-contaminated material from Fluffy homes is expected to be dumped at the West Belconnen tip, with back-up plans to accommodate a lot more.

The Inquiry into the proposed Appropriation (Loose-fill Asbestos Insulation Eradication) Bill 2014-15. Minister for ...
The Inquiry into the proposed Appropriation (Loose-fill Asbestos Insulation Eradication) Bill 2014-15. Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Shane Rattenbury, centre, faces questions along with other personnel. Photo: Graham Tidy

Thought is also being given to the future of the dump site, with a possibility it will become sportsgrounds, Territories and Municipal Services Minister Shane Rattenbury said. Asked for detail later, he also raised the possibility of a solar farm on the site, but stressed they were simply ideas and no decisions had been made about the long-term future of the site.

Mr Bell said it would be Canberra's loss if homeowners bought in Googong and Tralee, near Queanbeyan, with the loss of rates and taxes across the border, but people wanting to build a new home were left with little choice.

"The process will be quicker and land is going to be cheaper," he said, with NSW planning and development moving faster and few blocks available in the ACT, despite the fact that the stamp duty waiver will not be available to people who buy in NSW.

"You can't go out and buy a block of land [in the ACT]," he said. "The builders are screaming about that sort of thing."


Mr Bell, speaking to the inquiry, also suggested Fluffy owners would head for retirement villages and apartments, because of the cost, the lack of land and their stage in life.

Treasurer Andrew Barr told the inquiry the government would release 4000 new house sites next year, and between 3500 and 4000 in each year beyond that. That was an increase from the underlying demand for 2700 to 3000 new sites a year, he said.

He also predicted the influx of Fluffy homeowners would not have a big impact on the real-estate market, given it had been flat for three or four years and was at the mercy largely of Commonwealth job cuts, with more cuts expected at the federal government's mid-year update in February. 

The inquiry heard that officials were expecting 300 cubic metres of material to be dumped at West Belconnen from each of the 1021 Fluffy homes, but the site had capacity for more - up to 480,000 cubic metres.

Questioned about safety, Mr Rattenbury said the material would be secured as it was delivered by truck, then 30 centimetres of cover would be added at the end of each day, and the site would be capped at the end of the demolition. Officials were reviewing the protocols to check they were sufficient for the large-scale dumping.

"There is clearly no intention for asbestos to be blowing around West Belconnen," he said.

The executive director of the directorate's business enterprises division, Phillip Perram, said the material would arrive in a bonded state, with a superglue-like material used to bind it before it was loaded on to trucks, giving it the integrity necessary to stop it blowing around.

Labor backbencher Mary Porter raised concerns about contamination of stormwater and groundwater. Mr Perram responded that asbestos fibres were "literally trapped" by the soil and would not enter groundwater. Stormwater was not an issue because the site would be capped. He did not provide details on the question of stormwater contamination during the demolition, given water would be used to damp dust while houses were being demolished.

He suggested the dump site might one day be used for playing fields and walking tracks, a suggestion backed by Mr Rattenbury, who said it wasn't so much a hole that was being created at West Belconnen as a "land mass" that would be shaped depending on future uses, such as sportsgrounds.

Taskforce head Andrew Kefford said the asbestos removed from the ceilings of Mr Fluffy homes 20 years ago had been dumped at Palmerston, in Gungahlin, at what were now the Gungaderra grasslands.

Fluffy Owners and Residents Action group spokesperson Brianna Heseltine said owners were confused about the evolving advice on whether contents were safe to take with them, with conflicting advice from the Asbestos Taskforce and removalists. The taskforce is leaving decisions largely in the hands of owners, beyond telling them they should not touch anything that has been stored in the subfloor or ceiling space, or in contaminated cupboards. They have also been told that soft furnishings, bedding, linen, soft toys and clothing stored in a contaminated area should be abandoned.