Walkway still closed after seven months

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by Claire Allison

Nearly seven months after asbestos closed the coastal walkway north of Smithfield Beach, there is still no word on when it might reopen.

Environment Canterbury South Canterbury manager Justin McLauchlan said an in-depth site investigation had been completed, which had identified relatively low levels of asbestos-containing fragments within some historic building materials, which had likely been used as fill many years ago.

The assessment was commissioned by landowner Alliance Group and carried out by an independent qualified soil contamination scientist.

“A remediation action plan will now be prepared by the independent consultant and funded by the landowner to address both short-term and long-term actions for the site,” Mr McLauchlan said.

“Key stakeholders, including local councils and runanga, will be involved in any future works, which may require resource consents.

“The coastal walking path through this area will remain closed until any work is completed and follow-up tests are cleared.”

Timaru man Dave Meredith used to walk his dog regularly on the walkway, and said there had been a lack of information about when it was likely to reopen, especially with warmer weather approaching.

Mr Meredith said he wondered how high the risk was for people walking briefly past, given he understood the danger posed by asbestos was from particles in the air when it was disturbed.

Mr Meredith said the New Zealand guidelines for assessing and managing asbestos in soil say that “the approach and response need to be proportional to the risk”.

However, Mr McLauchlan said Environment Canterbury was confident the closure was necessary, until the material was remediated and the area was deemed safe for public use.

“The detailed site investigation we required from the landowners has taken some time to complete but it’s important that we have all the scientific information, like the deep soil samples, to understand the nature of this problem. This allows us to efficiently guide the landowners through their remediation process.”

Mr McLauchlan said the timeframe for reopening the walkway would depend on the remediation options that the landowner went ahead with.

A spokesman for Alliance Group said, “following the completion of the in-depth site investigation, we are now working with an independent consultant to develop a remediation action plan for the affected area. We’re unable to provide any more information until the remediation action plan has been completed.”