The expected demolition of up to 1000 Mr Fluffy homes across Canberra will reverberate around the city for years, not only as a massively expensive exercise but one with enormous complications and anguish writ large.
The homes are spread across the city, with Mr Fluffy's fingers reaching into the most prestigious and expensive streets and suburbs, including Forrest, Yarralumla and Reid, and touching not only the city's ordinary homes, but also homes worth millions of dollars and homes in heritage areas. It will take nerve, and not just financial, to demolish and rebuild such homes.
Single-brick homes, like the one demolished recently in the Woden Valley, can be taken down quite simply. It's a matter of removing internal walls, cleaning remaining asbestos fibres and sealing the interior, before pushing down the brick exterior. Once the cleaning and sealing is done, the demolition is very fast.
But double-brick homes are more difficult because the load-bearing wall is on the inside. The team is looking at whether there is a way to demolish them without having to "bubble-wrap" them, effectively enclosing them in a tent. This would allow the outside wall to be removed first, the asbestos cleaned and the surfaces sealed, before the load-bearing wall can be pushed over, but is clearly much more expensive.
Whichever way the homes come down, trucks laden with asbestos-contaminated building materials will be rumbling through the city to a dumping ground chosen to receive this ignominious legacy of the asbestos era.
An analysis of the homes shows the demolition will leave some streets scarred, with seven or more homes in some streets containing remnants of the loose-fill insulation.
The Canberra Times knows of one street with nine Mr Fluffy homes. Two streets have seven houses each; four streets have six houses each; four streets have five. It is clear Dirk Jansen,whose company installed the asbestos in the 1970s, went from door to door with the product, a pattern that has created pockets of contaminated homes.
The government must also decide what to do about the possibility of contaminated soil on properties where Mr Fluffy homes have been demolished (or burned in the 2003 bushfires) and rebuilt in the meantime.
And it must avoid a debacle like the federal insulation scheme, by somehow ensuring sufficient highly professional and scrupulous operators in the asbestos industry to get the job done. It is recruiting now and must clearly find ways to recruit and train carefully, and to monitor closely. It is difficult to see this part of the program running as smoothly as it must for the safety of neighbours and tradies.
The government is also working out how to accommodate the wishes of people, including some elderly, who are reluctant to leave their long-time home.
Chief Minister Katy Gallagher says she has received letters from people pleading with her not to demolish their homes. She has stopped short of saying they will be exempt from any mass demolition, but will be looking for a way to keep them in their homes perhaps temporarily, possibly leaving their houses to the end of what will be a drawn-out process.
If people are allowed to stay long term, the government must answer for the safety of the homes - not only for the residents, but for future residents and tradespeople, and for visitors, grandchildren, friends, helpers.
One thousand homes clearly can't be taken down quickly. It took Dirk Jansen 11 or more years to fill their ceilings with the deadly asbestos fibres. It took the government four years to remove the bulk of the fibres in the failed clean up of 1989-1993. It remains to be seen how long it takes to demolish and rebuild.
It's clearly an exercise in the hundreds of millions of dollars - one figure in the housing industry suggested it would be more than light rail. The question of who pays is just one of many deep difficulties in this troubling affair.
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