Looters attempting to make a quick buck off abandoned and contaminated belongings from Mr Fluffy homes are in for a rude shock.
The ACT Government has ensured that once they take possession of a home through the buy-back scheme, properties will be locked down and abandoned possessions will be sprayed with red industrial-strength paint – rendering them unusable and unsaleable.
The ACT Asbestos Response Taskforce has taken possession of eight surrendered Mr Fluffy homes to date – with another 201 households accepting the government's buy-back offer and in the process of leaving their properties.
Acting taskforce head Chris Reynolds said homes which were surrendered to the Government would be made as safe and as impenetrable as possible while they awaited demolition.
Half a dozen homes are slated to take part in a test demolition in March before the demolition program is rolled out in July.
Mr Reynolds said the potential for abandoned homes to be looted was a very real concern that the taskforce had addressed.
"Unfortunately in most societies, people look for opportunities to take advantage of what might appear to be an easy gain," Mr Reynolds said.
"In this instance, people seeking to take advantage may be of a false belief," he said, warning that looters could also be potentially exposed to a Class 1 carcinogen in loose Mr Fluffy amosite fibres.
Once a home is surrendered, workers from the ACT Property Group would begin a series of lock down procedures.
They would change the locks, then screw doors and windows closed from the inside. Motion sensors and alarm systems would be installed and security patrols scheduled for three times a day.
Signage would be erected while access to utilities like gas, water and electricity would be secured and locked.
While the taskforce was conscious of the need to keep frontages looking normal and not sprayed in red paint, any outdoor utilities located at the back of a property, such as hot water or air conditioning systems, would also be sprayed.
Swimming pools, ponds and spas would be drained, covered and fenced.
In one of the eight surrendered homes, a fence was required due to half-completed renovations – including a pool – creating a worksite hazard. Temporary fencing would be installed on other properties depending on risk.
In order to maintain a positive streetscape and prevent distress to neighbours, lawns would be regularly maintained, and no overt asbestos signage was being put up at present.
Neighbours would be informed of the situation in writing and in person.
Mr Reynolds accepted that abandoning personal possessions would be exceedingly difficult for many families.
"Certainly we aware how upsetting it is to leave a home, and the huge levels of anxiety and stress they have all gone through."
The taskforce has advised residents on what may be safely removed from a home – generally anything that may be wiped down and is not attached to a wall. Soft furnishings, drapes, and carpets, as well as items in directly contaminated areas such as linen in a contaminated linen press would all need to be left behind.
Each household would be advised of what was appropriate to take. Internally, homes could be left in a mess with homeowners advised to leave behind any cleaning materials they used when packing up.
Mr Reynolds noted that pre-settlement inspections would be undertaken "to ensure eligible owners have met their obligations under the deed of surrender including, but not limited to, fittings and fixtures, as well as to identify what measures are required to ensure the safety and ongoing security of property once it is owned by the ACT government."
"Under the deed of surrender, if owners have not complied with their obligations, the taskforce has the right not to accept the surrender of the deed."
This included any attempts to remove items that were contaminated.
Mr Reynolds said the police would be notified immediately if anyone tried to gain access to a Mr Fluffy home and looters would be dealt with by the judicial system.
So far the eight homes have been surrendered in suburbs including Griffith, Curtin, Weston and Kambah, with the government paying between $600,000 to $1.2 million for each home.
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