Cover thumbnail of the asbestos guide.

Asbestos was in widespread use in New Zealand houses and commercial buildings prior to 2000. It was commonly used in wall or roof cladding, for insulation (both thermal and acoustic), soffit linings, as backing to vinyl flooring and in decorative plaster and textured ceilings.

EQC is committed to repairing a substantial number of homes in the Canterbury Home Repair Programme, many of which were built in this period.

Asbestos Contained Materials (ACMs) are a health risk if they become damaged and fibres are released into the air.

EQC and Fletcher EQR have commissioned research on the asbestos exposure risks within the Canterbury Home Repair Programme (CHRP).

Research shows negligible risks to homeowners

The research report found that the risk of asbestos exposure in the CHRP did not reach a level where a single worker was likely to develop mesothelioma or lung cancer.

Risk management consultants Greencap NAA undertook the research and produced its report in 2014. You can view Part 1 of the Greencap report here (5 mgs) Part 2a and Part 2b here (5 mgs each)

This report was peer reviewed and provided to WorkSafe New Zealand. The research was confirmed by both WorkSafe’s internal experts and an independent expert engaged by WorkSafe.

WorkSafe found in its investigation into asbestos management in the Canterbury Home Repair Programme that, “the level of asbestos likely to have been released was very low, as was the risk to workers. The risk to residents is likely to have been even lower”.

The findings of the Greencap NAA report are consistent with those released by the Office of the Prime Minister's Chief Science Adviser and the Royal Society of New Zealand in their report, Asbestos exposure in New Zealand: Review of the scientific evidence of non-occupational risks. That report found that assessment of the current scientific knowledge on exposure levels and risks associated with home repair activities, such as the earthquake repairs in Canterbury, indicates they were, “unlikely to result in a significant increase in risk to homeowners and occupants of damaged houses, unless they were preforming the work themselves, without taking proper precautions such as wetting the surfaces and using a respirator”.

The full report can be found at the Royal Society website.

The findings of both reports are consistent with comparable studies carried out internationally.

EQC and Fletcher EQR endorse the views of the various authorities that appropriate precautions should be taken when working with ACMs, as with any potentially hazardous materials.

How we're dealing with asbestos

Asbestos needs to be identified prior to any repairs being undertaken. The presence of building materials that could contain asbestos is identified when the Canterbury Home Repair Programme team visits your home to scope your earthquake repairs. (This team may include an EQC representative, the Fletcher EQR contracts supervisor and the contractor.)

  • If asbestos is suspected, samples of the damaged area may need to be taken and sent to a laboratory for testing. (The sample is taken by an independent certified asbestos contractor and then sent to an IANZ Accredited laboratory for testing.)
  • If no Asbestos is detected the repair process will continue as normal.

If the test confirms that the damaged building contains asbestos, the repair strategy will follow the Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016 and the Worksafe NZ management and removal of Asbestos Approved Code of Practice.

Asbestos that poses a health risk will be addressed by specialists contractors in accordance with the Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016 and the Worksafe NZ Approved Code of Practice for the Management and Removal of Asbestos.

Where asbestos is identified in a house scheduled for repair, the homeowner is always notified.


Where is earthquake-damaged asbestos usually found?

It is often found in textured plaster or decorative ceilings, roof cladding, wall cladding, vinyl or linoleum backing, Soffit linings and insulation.

Who decides how the earthquake-damaged asbestos is dealt with?

EQC will determine the most appropriate repair strategy. In some circumstances, specialist contractors will be consulted.

Does the presence of damaged asbestos slow down repairs?

Generally not, however, scheduling and availability of contractors can sometimes create minor delays.

Who pays for dealing with the asbestos?

EQC covers the cost for damaged Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) where the damage is as a direct result of natural disaster.

Can I have all the asbestos in my home removed?

Asbestos which is not damaged as a direct result of Natural Disaster is not covered by EQC and will therefore become the responsibility of the homeowner. 

What happens if I am cash settled and asbestos is found?

The contractor that you engage is responsible for ensuring that areas that potentially contain asbestos as a result of earthquake damage are tested prior to commencing repairs.  A contractor qualified in identifying asbestos will need to be engaged to take samples from earthquake damaged areas suspected of containing asbestos and have it tested by a certified asbestos testing laboratory. 

It is important to note that EQC only provides cover for earthquake damaged areas of home that are suspected of containing asbestos. If you wish to get other areas of your house tested that are not earthquake damaged, you will need to pay for this yourself.

What if the test returns a positive result?

The contractor engaged to do your repairs, will need to follow the Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016 and Worksafe NZ Approved Code of Practice for the Management and Removal of Asbestos.

Is there a $ cost allowance for asbestos in my cash settlement?

A $ cost allowance is included in your cash settlement for sampling and testing earthquake damaged areas potentially containing asbestos.  If the test returns a negative result, then there is nothing more you need to do as your cash settlement will not be affected.

If the test returns a positive asbestos result you will need to provide a copy of the asbestos test certificate to EQC as your cash settlement figure may need to be reviewed.

If you require further information please contact EQC (0800 326 243).

Resources for homeowners

Homeowner Guide to Dealing with Asbestos (1.2 meg - PDF)

Ministry of Health advice to Bayfield School

Asbestos (overview – see useful ‘related websites’ at left-hand side) (Ministry of Health)

Chief Executive responds to asbestos - Open letter (pdf file)

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