ONLOOKERS were horrified when a worker fitted out in full protective gear and a face mask dismantled a fence containing asbestos in the main street of Lennox Head as lots of people milled about during Monday's public holiday.
The fence, in front of an old house at 86 Ballina St, was just off a public footpath and next to a cafe.
A Ballina Shire Council representative said the incident had been referred to WorkCover NSW for review despite there being a very low risk to the public.
Sydneysiders Helen Magner and John Fowler said they and other onlookers were shocked by the worker's activity.
"It should not have been done on a public holiday," Ms Magner said.
"You just get a fleck (of asbestos) in your lungs and you're dead."
Council's health and environment manager Graham Plumb said while the timing of the fence removal was unfortunate, it presented a very low risk to the public as the asbestos fibres - which comprised less than 25% of the corrugated sheeting fence - were contained.
Mr Plumb attended the site at 10.30am on Monday following a tip-off from the public and found the fence already removed.
He said the home owner had hired a licensed asbestos remover and had been carrying out the work at the request of the council as it was deemed the fence had reached its use-by date.
"The work could have been better timed," Mr Plumb said.
"We are referring the matter initially to WorkCover NSW for review".
Graham Lancaster, the director of Southern Cross University's Environmental Research Laboratory, agreed the risk to the public was "absolutely negligible".
Like many towns across Australia, Lennox Head has a lot of older homes containing asbestos.