New Sydney parklands closed over 'concerning' toxic discovery in kids' play area

Work is underway to determine whether the mulch used at the park, where the asbestos was found, has been used anywhere else.

Merely weeks after it opened to the public, a controversial inner-city park in Sydney has been slammed shut after traces of asbestos were found in mulch in a children's play area.

Located in the Inner West, Rozelle Parklands — which was developed as part of the troubled Rozelle Interchange, dubbed "spaghetti junction" by frustrated locals — has been closed just over three weeks after it opened.

The spot, which has been popular with Inner West locals since it's launch, was a ticketed vantage point for Sydney's New Year's Eve celebrations. Yahoo understands it was attended by crowds of people.

Work underway to uncover extent of contamination

According to Transport for NSW (TfNSW), the extent of the contamination remains unknown, with "contamination experts engaging NSW Health, SafeWork, and the EPA to take all necessary steps to ensure the site is safe".

Rozelle Parklands.
The parklands opened to the public merely weeks ago. Source: Inner West Council.

"Remediation experts are currently on site conducting tests of the material across the parkland to determine the extent of contamination," a TfNSW spokesperson said.

'No air borne particles' found so far

Work is also underway to determine whether the mulch used at the park — which opened on December 17 — has been used at any other locations across the city.

"A number of preliminary air quality tests taken at that site yesterday did not find any air borne particles outside of normal expected parameters," the spokesperson continued, adding that initial advice indicates that the asbestos identified "was considered low risk".

Mayor slams hazard as 'beyond belief'

Inner West mayor Darcy Byrne described the discovery as "concerning".

"This is a serious safety concern for Council and our community as thousands of local children and families have been using Rozelle Parklands in the month since it opened," he said.

“As a parent whose children have been playing there myself, I understand how concerning this will be for many thousands of local people.

“It is beyond belief that such a long-awaited community facility has been opened with asbestos-contaminated materials contained within it.”

A community update is expected later today on the results of the investigations, with the mulch expected to soon be replaced.

Rozelle Parklands.
The park has been closed for further testing after asbestos was found in mulch. Source: TfNSW.

Criticism continues for troubled interchange

The discovery comes amid continued criticism of the Rozelle Interchange, which has been slammed by locals — and even celebrities — over its messy layout and constant traffic build-up.

Just two days after it opened, commuters reported it taking almost an hour to travel from Rozelle to the Anzac Bridge, as drivers grappled with the changed traffic conditions.

Urgent construction began in December to open a new lane for general traffic where the current one lane merges with the new Crescent Overpass before the Anzac Bridge.

The new multibillion-dollar tunnel, intended to reduce travel times between the city’s west and the CBD, has instead caused commute times to blow out by more than an hour.

Popular beach shut for weeks over similar find

Back in 2021, a popular beach in Sydney's eastern suburbs closed for two weeks after asbestos was found there.

"More than 1,000 pieces of bonded (mainly fibrous cement sheeting) have been found indicating an ongoing source of contamination, potentially from nearby creek gullies where old building material may have been buried," Randwick Council said at the time.

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