Asbestos nightmare spreads to Victorian councils

Victorian councils are being instructed to check their garden mulch supply contracts and landscaping quality controls following the discovery of asbestos at metropolitan parks.

The EPA is investigating possible asbestos in parks around Melbourne (image: Hobsons Bay City Council)

The discovery comes as NSW scrambles to remediate a string of asbestos-contaminated parks across Sydney.

The Victorian EPA says it’s continuing to investigate the source of mulch delivered to affected parks.

“EPA is also writing to all Victorian councils asking them to assess quality controls for landscaping works and supply contracts for garden mulch, and to demolition companies reminding them of their environmental compliance obligations in relation to asbestos management during demolition works,” it said.

The EPA has been inspecting parks across the Hobsons Bay, Merri-Bek and Brimbank LGAs.

It has since served Hobsons Bay City Council with remedial notices ordering it to proactively inspect more parks and gardens.

The city has been given until May 10 must engage a hygienist to inspect all council managed parks and gardens that have received mulch in the past 18 months.

The EPA has also requested all reports dating back to July 2021 regarding asbestos containing materials found in mulch at or around Hobsons Bay City Council infrastructure.

Hobsons Bay City Council must also provide EPA with a list of all suppliers used to source mulch by the council by April 22.

Council starts work

In a statement over the weekend, Council confirmed it had received the EPA’s remedial notices and a hygienist would begin investigations on Monday.

“EPA will also review Council’s procedures regarding the sourcing and handling of mulch; and has requested all reports dating back to July 2021, from council, its staff and contractors regarding asbestos containing materials found in mulch at or around Council infrastructure,” it said.

“Council is continuing to cooperate with the EPA and provide them with a list of all suppliers used to source mulch, as well as a list of contractors and sub-contractors used, from the same time period.”

It comes after an audit reported by Government News late last year found the Victorian government’s plan to address asbestos disposal was on a path to failure thanks to lack of consultation with councils.

In Sydney, the discovery of asbestos at the newly opened Rozelle Parklands in January sparked the biggest investigation in the NSW EPA’s history, with around 6,500 tonnes of suspect mulch tracked down and tested, and areas of parks throughout the city closed off.

NSW local government minster Ron Heonig has come under pressure about the support that’s being provided to councils in the state, which a parliamentary committee heard last month were under “extraordinary pressure from the community to address asbestos and reopen parks and public spaces”.

Comment below to have your say on this story.

If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at  

Sign up to the Government News newsletter

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required