Unions have welcomed what they say is a long overdue move by the New Zealand government to ban imports of almost all asbestos-containing products. “Thousands of kiwis have been killed from being exposed to asbestos.
We’ve known for a long time how dangerous this material is. It is certainly a relief that the government has finally acted,” said Sam Huggard, secretary of the national union federation CTU. “Almost 200 people die every year as result of exposure to asbestos. It can take as long as 20 years from when people are exposed to asbestos fibres to when they actually get sick, so there hasn’t been the same immediacy to address this hazard as there has been to other dangerous workplace bio-hazards.”
However, he criticised a government decision to allow some exemptions to the asbestos ban, which is due to take effect on 1 October 2016. “We are disappointed that the government has not gone as far as they could have and banned, without any exception, all importation. Kiwis will be safer with less asbestos. We are pleased that the changes we have been calling for, have now been, mostly, actioned.”