Little Bay Beach asbestos management

Keeping the community safe

Little Bay Beach

Pieces of material containing asbestos (mainly fibrous cement sheeting) have been found regularly at Little Bay Beach since an initial report in August 2020. Randwick City Council is continuing to inspect and remove visible material and is also developing options for longer term remediation.

Please do not touch, collect or pick up any material on the beach that may look like pieces of fibro sheeting. The material may be weathered and sometimes looks like shell or rock. Signage is in place at the entrance to the beach advising beach goers.

On this page:


On 2 August 2020, Randwick City Council was alerted to a social media notification from a local resident that they had found what appeared to be material containing asbestos at Little Bay Beach.

On 3 August 2020, Randwick City Council engaged specialist remediation contractors Trinitas Group and RMA Group to visit the beach and conduct a preliminary investigation. During this visit, 10 suspected asbestos containing materials (ACMs) were collected. All 10 samples returned positive for asbestos.

Specialist asbestos removal crews continued to search for and ‘emu pick’ asbestos containing material from 4 to 7 August 2020. While the picks were occurring, the area was barricaded off, signage installed and air monitoring undertaken.

In the first week period, approximately 100 visible ACM fragments were found across the north, west and southern section of the beach. All of them were removed and tested.

Council then appointed external expert consultants and asbestos removalists to undertake ongoing inspections of the beach, air monitoring and to visually detect and remove any material which was suspected to contain asbestos (this is referred to as ‘emu-picking’).

Since August 2020, Randwick Council has continued to conduct twice weekly emu-picks and we keep finding more asbestos containing material. In total, more than 2,000 pieces of material contained asbestos have been found and removed.  This indicates that material is continuing to come to the surface – likely through stormwater and tidal impacts.

Detailed Site Investigation (from 26 April - 30 April 2021)

The beach was temporarily closed to public access from Monday 26 April to Friday 30 April 2021 for a Detailed Site Investigation.

A Detailed Site Investigation helps us better understand the location, source and extent of any materials containing asbestos at or near the beach.

The beach was divided into three areas for testing. The DSI found 15 out of the 45 test pits contained asbestos –confirmed to be bonded, non-friable asbestos. No friable or trace asbestos was identified at any of the test pits.The asbestos was mostly found
near the gullies where stormwater flows to the beach.

The investigation noted that: “Due to the nature of site contamination by bonded asbestos fragments in soil and on sand surfaces, it is the opinion of Trinitas that
asbestos contamination at the Site poses a potentially low health risk to site users.”

Outcomes of Detailed Site Investigation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Is the beach safe to swim at?

Yes. The expert advice we have received is that the beach remains safe for use for general recreation.

The material found is a form of bonded asbestos (fibro) which represents a low-level risk. The beach has been regularly cleared by a licensed asbestos assessor under the NSW Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017 to not pose an unacceptable risk to health and safety during normal use.

Q. How can I keep myself and my family safe?

Do not collect, touch or remove any items from the beach. Often the asbestos containing material can be weathered so it may be difficult to differentiate it from shell or ceramic material.

Q. What is a Detailed Site Investigation?

A DSI is a more intensive analysis of a site to determine the presence of asbestos-containing material. In the case of Little Bay Beach, it involved historic research, comparison of historic aerial photographs, interviews with local residents and
onsite works to sample 45 test pits. It was undertaken by our expert consultants, RMA Group and Trinitas Group and the beach area was fenced and closed to public access while the works were occurring.

Q. When was Little Bay Beach closed?

Little Bay Beach is open and safe for public use. It was only closed for one week in April 2021 while a Detailed Site Investigation was conducted.

Q. Are there currently any safety issues?

The type of bonded asbestos identified on Little Bay Beach is considered low risk however, beach users are advised not to touch or pick up suspect material. Independent accredited assessors have also confirmed that there is currently no unacceptable risk to human health from normal use of the beach. Ongoing visual and air monitoring confirm that Council’s asbestos management activities are keeping the beach safe for general use.

Q. Where did the asbestos come from?

The DSI confirms that building material containing asbestos remains present at the beach and is concentrated around the three gullies on the beach. These gully areas are mostly located on land managed by other organisations. The gullies were found to also contain other building material such as old bricks, concrete and tiles which suggests that building waste has been filled in the gullies in the past. Stormwater
and tidal movements are gradually moving this material onto the beach area.

Prior to the knowledge about the dangers of asbestos, it was common practice to bury building waste material – often in gully areas to reduce costs. The area around Little Bay Beach was previously used as the Prince Henry Hospital and a number
of buildings were located near to the beach. Many of these buildings were demolished over the years.

Also between 1965 and 1970 large-scale levelling of the golf course was undertaken and at this stage fill material was likely introduced as well.

Example of asbestos containing material found at Little Bay Beach.
Example of asbestos containing material found at Little Bay Beach.

Q. What should I do if I find fibro pieces on the beach?

Do not to touch or pick up any material on the beach that may look like pieces of fibro sheeting. The material may be weathered and sometimes looks like shell or rock. Signage is located at the entrance to the beach to this effect.

If you find material and are concerned about it, please report it to Randwick Council via the contact numbers and email addresses on this page. Please include photographs of the location if possible to help our crews safely find and remove the material.

Q. What is Randwick Council doing about it?

The DSI recommends a range of actions.

Short term (actions complete/ongoing):

  • Continuing to undertake twice weekly air monitoring and emu picking by a competent licensed asbestos assessor. Following heavy rain and/or storms this will be undertaken as soon as practical.
  • Issuing the Detailed Site Investigation Report to relevant stakeholders including Landcom, Department of Planning Industry and Environment, NSW Environmental Protection Authority, Crown Land and the Coast Golf Club.
  • Installing warning signs at the entrance to the beach.
  • Continuing to notify beach users and local residents via direct mail and through our website.

Medium term actions (not yet undertaken):

  • Installing a sediment control barrier on the middle gully to reduce fragments entering the sand area.
  • Considering a diving investigation to assess any underwater contamination.
  • Advising adjacent land owners to conduct their own due diligence as a means to limit further asbestos containing material eroding onto the beach area.

Longer terms actions (not yet undertaken):

  • Undertake remediation of the affected areas. Note these works are potentially extensive, disruptive and costly. As the affected areas are likely to involve multiple land managers this is seen as long-term option.

Q. Who is responsible for the clean-up?

Generally the land owner is responsible for managing any contamination found onsite. While Randwick Council manages the beach area, the surrounding Crown land is managed by other organisations. This means any clean-up and long-term management needs to be a collaborative approach.

Q. Why can't you just remove all the material?

Managing historic asbestos contamination is very challenging. On some sites, containing and capping contaminated soil is sometimes an appropriate remediation strategy. However at Little Bay Beach, the natural environment is causing those contaminants to move. Mass excavation of the fill material is expensive and challenging to conduct and also not a guarantee that all material will be removed.

Q. What is being done to keep the community and other beach users informed?

  • Letters were sent to around 3,500 local households and businesses on 16 December 2020, 12 April 2021 and 19 January 2023.
  • Updated information is being posted to the dedicated project page and to the Little Bay Beach webpage.
  • Initial signage was installed in early December 2020 and updated twice in April 2021.
  • VMS signage has been installed on approach to Little Bay.
  • Ongoing updates are also being provided via Council’s e-newsletter, social media and email notifications to subscribers.
  • Visits to nearby businesses were conducted on 20 April 2021.
Signage at Little Bay Beach.

Documents and resources



Clearance certificates and air monitoring reports

November 2022

October 2022

September 2022

August 2022

July 2022

April 2022

March 2022

February 2022

January 2022

December 2021

November 2021

October 2021

September 2021

August 2021

July 2021

June 2021

May 2021

April 2021

Contact information

Contact Randwick City Council for more information about the project.

More information about asbestos

Last Updated: 23 January 2023
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