This morning on Morning Report there has been the development of a story concerning asbestos exposure in Christchurch. The issue is an important one. The earthquakes and subsequent of demolition of numerous buildings have almost inevitably caused the release of asbestos into the environment. The substance is a potential killer and anyone who has a family member who has suffered from Mesothilomia can testify how dangerous the substance is.
The issue is a current one because Worksafe is investigating the way that Fletcher EQC handles any asbestos that it finds in houses. An unnamed subcontractor to Fletcher said this morning that as many as 60,000 people may have been exposed or are currently being exposed to lethal asbestos fibres.
Matters must be of concern. Worksafe has investigated four cases and taken no further action but a fifth case is the subject of a court application for an extension of time so that its investigations can continue.
The story is obviously one that in the public interest a free and independent media would investigate.
This morning on Nine to Noon Kathryn Ryan interviewed Graham Darlow from Fletcher Building on the topic. Specifically she asked questions concerning a possible public register recording where asbestos had been discovered. The interview was informative and Kathryn Ryan was her usual professional self. The description of the interview said “Nine to Noon has been told that the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is leading a multiagency group – including the Earthquake Commission, Fletcher Construction’s EQR and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet – to try to identify which houses may have have had a high risk of containing asbestos and thereby quantify how many people may have been exposed.”
Part way through something unusual happened. Gerry Brownlee was brought into the discussion and then proceeded to throw his toys out of the cot. He became that belligerent that Ryan had to hang up on him.
Even a simple confirmation about whether MBIE had set up a multi agency group including the DPMC was met with what was frankly a tirade of abuse. I hope all of the people of Christchurch listen to this because the behaviour and the indifference to what is a very important issue was appalling.
The audio is below. Brownlie comes in 16 minutes into the clip. His first action was to abuse Ryan’s understanding of the issue.
Given his clear belligerence on the issue what I would like to know is has Worksafe been subject to any pressure? And how is a public body meant to perform an important statutory function when a Minister behaves in the way that Brownlee has?
Note: I have changed title to refer to Nine to Noon as this was the correct programme …