Christchurch Green Party office gets tested for asbestos

Update from the Christchurch Office Staff

We’ve certainly had an authentic “Christchurch earthquake experience” with our Green MPs’ Christchurch office. Like many others, our previous office was cordoned-off within the city red zone and has since been knocked down.

Our next ‘office-home’ was in a campervan. The location-flexibility was great, and it enabled us to deliver donated food to parts of the city that most needed it in the immediate aftermath.Christchurch Office

We have since moved into a humble former flat on Straven Road, and are currently in the rather precarious phase of being due for EQC repairs but not being entirely sure when those are going to happen. This is unfortunately a very familiar experience for a lot of Cantabrians.

Or office recently experienced yet another stage in the “earthquake experience”. We were being tested for asbestos before any repair work can begin.

The asbestos testing involved multiple samples being taken from around the office. Every wall and ceiling in every room and hallway had four samples taken, known as ‘composite testing’. This is because asbestos might be found in some areas of a home and not others.

The likelihood of finding asbestos depends on the age of the house and when any building work was done. Our office has laden plaster ceilings so is a lower risk than stipple ceilings, but still important to be tested. Our tester told us he usually tests around 12 homes a day, of which approx. 4 come back with a positive result for asbestos.Asbestos Tester

The process of being tested for asbestos has been reassuringly extensive and the safety measures taken very seriously. Our tester laid down plastic sheeting, put on safety blue coveralls, gloves, and a proper face mask with filters to stop microscopic particles passing through.

The samples are collected directly through a plastic funnel into tight sealed bags, which are then double bagged for protection during transportation. Each bag is pre-labelled, and as he collects samples, we move out of the area which he is located in. Once the sample is taken, the area of ceiling or wall is immediately patched up. Our tester is comfortingly safety minded and happy to talk us through any concerns.

Once all the tests are done, bagged and double bagged, they were sent to the Christchurch laboratory to determine our results. Shortly we will find out the asbestos results for our office.

Extracting a SampleWe are mindful that in our case the asbestos testing has preceded the repair work. This has not been the case for all Christchurch residents. We were alarmed at the stories of demolition without asbestos checks, and that thousands of residents have been left fearful that their repair work may have left them exposed.

The health risks associated with asbestos are too great to hope individuals, amidst the stress and anguish of earthquake repairs, remember to get this stage checked off. We need a comprehensive process that ensures no person or family falls through the cracks and is put at unnecessary and extremely harmful risk. The Government needs to take responsibility, not just for the businesses, but for the families affected by asbestos. The investigations by WorkSafe are only focusing on the building industry and occupational exposure, no one is looking at homes which have been repaired. We think this isn’t good enough. Let’s make all our buildings, including our homes, safe for everyone.