More than 80 NSW residents have asked authorities to test insulation in their rooftops, as the state widens its search for loose-fill asbestos less than a fortnight after it began.
The state will now include the Boorowa and Bombala local government areas in its offer of free testing to anyone with a home built before 1980, bringing to 16 the number of areas targeted.
On Thursday, residents from 12 affected Queanbeyan properties met Workcover NSW and the Queanbeyan City Council, where they were offered air monitoring and dust sampling of their homes.
The 12 properties include a 38-unit property that has loose-fill asbestos throughout the second-storey ceiling cavity. They were identified in a voluntary-testing scheme 20 years ago, but the council believes there could be many more homes containing the dangerous asbestos insulation and is urging residents to have their ceilings checked.
Council manager of sustainability and better living Mike Thompson said residents were frustrated and wary, given the lack of progress in NSW over many years. But they recognised that the new search for asbestos and the testing was a step forward.
But NSW state MP for Monaro, covering Queanbeyan, Steve Whan called on the NSW government to survey all pre-1980 homes, rather than relying on residents to request testing. People were reluctant to come forward for many reasons. Some were worried about home values; others about alerting and scaring neighbours.
"I don't believe that a lot of people will come forward before there is some prospect of someone helping them with the problem," he said, citing a resident concerned about the insulation in his roof but reluctant to check for fear of alarming neighbours with an asbestos-testing crew in the street.
Mr Whan said he had spoken to residents who had had the asbestos removed themselves, some still living with it in their roof, and one owner whose son's family was now living in a home containing the insulation. Others would have no idea.
He has called on the Commonwealth government to extend any ACT rescue package to Queanbeyan and elsewhere in NSW, saying it as "completely unacceptable for people to suggest that this is a problem that stops at the border".
But a spokesman for federal Senator Eric Abetz said on Wednesday the focus was on Canberra because the Commonwealth had jurisdiction in the ACT when Mr Fluffy was operating in the late 1960s and the 1970s. That was not the case in NSW.
Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities chairman Peter Dunphy said an investigator would be on board in September to work through records and track down where loose-fill asbestos might have been used in the state.
Where owners of pre-1980 homes had requested testing, the work would begin next week.
Bombala and Boorowa had been added to the mix because the local councils had made contact, and the team was following every lead, Mr Dunphy said, urging residents outside the 16 areas to make contact if they believed the asbestos had been installed in their towns.
The general manager of the Boorowa Council, Anthony McMahon, said he had asked for the area to be included after being approached by residents who believed they might have had Mr Fluffy asbestos installed in the 1970s, and others who recall someone going door to door offering a product which fitted the description of Mr Fluffy insulation.
He wanted to ensure residents had access to testing and any remediation program.