MR FLUFFY – NOT A CUTE CHILD’S TOY OR THE NAME OF A CLOWN.

Mr Fluffy means asbestos and it’s bad. Very bad.

Unless you’ve been on an Antarctic expedition or living under a rock for the past few months, you will have heard of ‘Mr Fluffy’, which despite the cute and cuddly name, is anything but that. Mr Fluffy was a supplier of a particular type of loose fill insulation material in the 1970s, which has since been found to contain amosite asbestos fibres that have been almost impossible to eradicate despite a government removal program in the 1990s. Remnant loose fibres are believed to still be present in up to 1049 Canberra homes, now known as ‘Mr Fluffy homes’.

Fortunately for the ACT, community engagement and support has been incredibly positive, compared to other jurisdictions that are also dealing with loose fill asbestos. Our Chief Minister, the ACT Government Task Force, the Real Estate Institute of the ACT and particularly Brianna Heseltine, founder of the Fluffy Owners and Residents Action Group, have all been instrumental in alerting the community to the challenges being experienced by affected families, ensuring that more people are not affected by unknowingly entering or purchasing affected homes and keeping the issue very much front of mind.

While there are existing requirements in place to deal with other forms of asbestos, we now have extra measures in place to deal with Mr Fluffy disclosure should any of these owners wish to sell their homes. This includes gathering more specific information in order to ascertain the risk of Mr Fluffy being present, such as ascertaining when the property was built, whether there is any knowledge of loose fill asbestos being present, and whether the home was subject to the Government removal program in the 1990s. If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, we have strict processes in place to ensure disclosure to all parties at all stages of the transaction.

One thing that we do not want to see is anyone trying to profiteer from this situation without adding any value, and we were disappointed to see one business with no past experience in dealing with asbestos-related issues recently running an ad directed at Mr Fluffy home owners.

The long term future of Mr Fluffy homes and affected families remains uncertain, and following the demolition of a Woden home by its owners on Tuesday, it appears that some lateral thinking may be required regarding the redevelopment of these sites. This may include flexibility around planning controls and lease variation charges and we urge the Government to look at these options as part of the overall strategy.

There is no doubt that many in our community will continue to experience financial and personal stress around the Mr Fluffy issue for some time, and the least we can do is continue to support those affected families in whatever way we can.

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