22 Sep 2015

Dangerous asbestos found at Northland spa

6:01 pm on 22 September 2015

Health and other authorities have been unable to provide any answers this morning about the level of risk posed to visitors to a Northland hot pool which has closed because of an asbestos discovery.

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Photo: RNZ / Nicola Grigg

Top Energy's hot pools, formerly known as Ginn's Spa, at Ngawha near Kaikohe have been a tourist drawcard for decades.

The power company bought the rundown spa recently as part of its plan to expand its Ngawha geothermal power station, and was about to renovate it.

But contractors found that asbestos had been used widely in the building of the spa facilities.

Top Energy have closed the facility after experts advised no-one could safely be on site.

Ginn's Spa, as it was known, has been a popular spot for day visits and camping for many years. It is rated online as one of Kaikohe's top tourist attractions.

Northland Health has not been able to give any information today on the level of risk those visitors may have been exposed to.

Worksafe New Zealand is offering the company support.

It said it was not notified of the discovery because no restricted work had started on the site, but said it would advise Top Energy on safety measures if it decided to go ahead with renovations .

A Worksafe spokesman said asbestos fibre boards were widely used as a building material in New Zealand for decades, and were not dangerous if they're intact.

But the material was a serious health risk during demolition if it was disturbed and then breathed in as fine fibres.

Top Energy spokesman Peter Heath said the company knew some asbestos was present when it bought the run-down spa, but was hoping to renovate it.

He said Top Energy was notifying staff and contractors who have been on the Ngawha site that they may have been exposed to asbestos, but it was not clear whether tourists and previous users of Ginns' Spa have been put at risk.

The Ngawha pools next door, known as the Waiariki pools, are run by a Maori trust and are still open.