The Blue Mountains City Council has been issued with a formal notice of “intention to suspend” by the NSW Local Government Minister following allegations of serious asbestos safety breaches.
The suspension relates to 20 alleged breaches of asbestos rules.
“I am concerned the council is not functioning effectively following the volume and scope of recent regulatory notices issued by SafeWork NSW and the Environment Protection Authority,” Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton said.
The council has seven days to respond or face suspension, and a temporary administrator will be appointed.
On Monday, SafeWork NSW said they had launched “a full investigation” into the council’s management of asbestos at their locally-run workplaces.
Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean described the council’s asbestos management as “alarming” and said the council-run Wentworth Falls Pre-School had been closed and would remain so until it was safe for children to return.
Notices issued by WorkSafe for asbestos found in:
- a council-owned building operating as a pre-school at Wentworth Falls
- large waste piles at the council depots at Lawson and Katoomba
- buildings at Springwood council depot
- leaf litter at the rear of the yard at a council-owned building operating as a pre-school in Katoomba
- Lawson Library ceiling
- the ceilings and walls at Warrimoo Citizens’ Hall
- the fireplace at Heatherbrae Cottage at Lawson
Mayor threatens legal action
Blue Mountains Mayor Mark Greenhill said the Government’s move was surprising.
He said the asbestos management issues were operational matters that did not relate directly to the elected members.
Mr Greenhill said councillors were trying to fix the issues but they were not “the ones that go out on site to do this work”.
“I can only conclude this is a political decision,” he said.
“I think there were and are significant management issues around asbestos, and I think they absolutely must be addressed, and I think the Government is right to push to have those matters be fixed.
“There can be no argument that we haven’t been doing exactly what the State Government has asked us to do.”
Mr Greenhill said he was prepared to mount a legal challenge.
“I’m calling the council together later this week to consider a legal response,” he said.
“If that means taking this politically motivated decision to the courts, then I think we should be prepared to do that.