Asbestos cover-up alleged
BILL Ludwig has accused the State Government of a cover-up after the Department of Public Works finally confirmed the scale of asbestos contamination on the prime foreshore redevelopment site in Yeppoon.
Just two days after Premier Anna Bligh announced $1.36 million in grants to help open up the former hospital grounds, public works director general Natalie MacDonald revealed the department was taking advice on how to deal with soil riddled with asbestos-containing materials.
Cr Ludwig yesterday called for an official inquiry into the way the matter had been handled over the past year by Queensland Health and the Department of Public Works amid concerns that children and concert-goers might have been exposed to health risks.
More than 2000 youngsters attended the Rudebox music festival on the site on Boxing Day last year.
He said the government had repeatedly denied asbestos was present and had allowed a concert to go ahead in the grounds even though there was only a thin layer of topsoil covering the potentially deadly material.
"There are absolute truckloads of rubble beneath the surface and there has quite literally been a cover-up.
"We have been misled over this issue at every turn and the state members have been asleep at the wheel," said Cr Ludwig yesterday.
"It is absolute nonsense to try to say now that this asbestos has just been discovered.
"Contractors were on site demolishing the old hospital a year ago.
"How can it be possible that workers didn't see anything when I was alerted by the community at that time?"
Cr Ludwig called for the entire site to be excavated so the contaminated material could be taken away.
He said Rockhampton Regional Council had waited a year for Queensland Health to hand over the site after demolition, but it was now clear why there had been such a delay.
But Member for Keppel Paul Hoolihan accused Cr Ludwig of creating fear and called on him to apologise for the "smears and innuendo" involved in a political campaign aimed at him.
"The concert he refers to was unlawful.
"Permission was sought to gain access to the site and was denied," he said.
"There has been no cover-up. The asbestos was buried and was not obvious during the demolition."
The Department of Public Works said it was also in discussion with the Department of Environment and Resource Management over what to do next, adding there was "minimal risk to people who accessed the site prior to demolition of the hospital because portions of fibro containing asbestos were buried".
A statement yesterday said undisturbed materials generally did not pose a health risk.