Asbestos in Reserve Bank in Wellington brings renovation work to a temporary stop

By Melissa Nightingale

Parts of the Reserve Bank in Wellington have asbestos in them. Photo/Ross Setford.
Parts of the Reserve Bank in Wellington have asbestos in them. Photo/Ross Setford.

Construction work on part of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand building in Wellington had to be halted for several days last month due to concerns about asbestos.

Worksafe shut down construction on the area for four days until the Reserve Bank brought on an asbestos expert to help with the work, which is being done by Construct Wellington.

Asbestos is present in level two of the building, which is a restricted-access construction zone while renovation work is carried out, Reserve Bank spokesman Angus Barclay said.

"The health and safety of our staff, tenants and contractors are our priority, so we've been taking all necessary steps to ensure that appropriate health and safety processes are followed and controls are in place to avoid disturbing known asbestos during renovation," Barclay said.

"In all areas where we're doing renovation work we first survey for asbestos, test as required, and deal with asbestos before any further work takes place."

Worksafe confirmed it issued a non-disturbance notice on April 24.

Barclay said the bank engaged the services of an asbestos management expert, who now conducts the tests and surveys before the construction company starts work on any areas of the floor. Previously, the company carried out the tests itself.

Engaging an expert "has provided an added assurance".

"Renovation work only starts when the asbestos management expert agrees it is safe to do so," Barclay said.

The non-disturbance notice was lifted on April 28.

Barclay said the team follow the correct safety procedures to assess, contain and remove asbestos from affected areas.

"Where asbestos is present we lock down the affected area until the potential risk is mitigated."

Asbestos was commonly installed in buildings as a fire retardant in the early 1970s, including the Reserve Bank building.

"This is similar to many other buildings around Wellington built in the same era," Barclay said.

"It presents no health risks unless it's disturbed and becomes airborne. Areas where asbestos is known to be present are limited to specific parts of the Reserve Bank building that are inaccessible without significant demolition of walls, ceilings or floors."

The Reserve Bank has been working with Worksafe throughout the renovation process.

Construct Wellington did not want to comment.

- NZ Herald

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