Mr Fluffy homeowners fear for possessions in asbestos clean-up
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Mr Fluffy homeowners fear for possessions in asbestos clean-up

Mr Fluffy homeowners are confused about what possessions and furniture they will be allowed to keep if their home is demolished, with suggestions that some belongings will be treated as contaminated waste.

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher was unable to clarify on Tuesday, saying the government had not decided.

Ms Gallagher was also unable to throw light on when a decision would be made on the purchase and demolition of the 1000 homes, beyond saying she hoped it would be "this side of Christmas".

Possessions and furniture are emerging as one of the many complications of the Mr Fluffy clean-up.

"How is it OK for us to live in the houses with these items but they can't be given away?" asks one owner on the Fluffy Owners and Residents Action Group Facebook page. Another says they were told books must be double-bagged and disposed of as contaminated waste.

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One points out that over 42 years in the home and major renovations, they had sold and donated "hundreds of items, clothes and furniture".

Another asks, perhaps less seriously, about the implications for the weekly rubbish that goes from the house.

In its latest newsletter, the asbestos taskforce said it was not possible to give assurances that contents were not contaminated, and soft furnishings "should be disposed of as appropriate", using licensed asbestos removalists.

Answering a question from one owner about whether if they replaced a broken oven they could take the new oven with them when the house was demolished, the taskforce said it might be possible to remove a free-standing oven, but not an "integrated" oven.

Asked for clarification, a spokeswoman stressed not all contents of all houses would have to be destroyed. The taskforce understood "that the thought of disposing of contents is difficult for homeowners" and was working towards "sensitive and considered advice balanced with hazard reduction", she said. The taskforce was still working on final advice on the issue.

Ms Gallagher said the government had not made a decision on soft furnishings. Assessments showed some could be cleaned and some couldn't, and homeowners had a wide variety of views.

"There are people who want nothing to do with the government getting involved in their home, they want no conversation with us, they don't want anything touched, they don't want to be moved, they don't want anything lost. And then there's people who want the whole house collapsed in on itself and removed to the tip. And then there's all these people in between. And we just have to work carefully with them," she said.

With 47 families forced out of their homes because of contamination, the Commonwealth is still considering whether it will help pay for the clean-up.

A spokesman for Senator Eric Abetz, responsible for the asbestos issue, would not give an indication of timing. Senator Abetz has consistently refused interview requests on the topic.

Homeowners were sent alert stickers at the end of September, identifying their homes as "Mr Fluffy" and containing loose asbestos. They were told they must put the sticker on their house at the electricity meter box and switchboard as soon as possible and before January 1, or face a $4500 fine. The taskforce said 250 owners had already returned forms saying the stickers had been installed, and Worksafe would visit homes between now and Christmas to check.

Ms Gallagher said she understood the frustration of Fluffy homeowners, but the timing was not in her control. She understood it would go to federal cabinet "relatively shortly" and pointed to the indication from the federal government at the end of August that it would need two months to consider the issue.

"I'd be very keen to have a decision this side of Christmas, I really am wanting resolution and to provide that certainty to homeowners as soon as possible," she said.

"I can't come out in the absence of federal support because of the money that's involved with any decision. Whether it be remediation or demolition, it's hundreds of million of dollars, and I need the Commonwealth support for it."

Kirsten Lawson is news director at The Canberra Times

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