Report backs community oppositionSep 24th, 2008 | By Philippa Stevenson | Category: Investigations - fire, Local Events, Media reports - fire, Tamahere Fire Action Group
Tamahere residents intend to use the Fire Service report into the Icepak coolstore blaze to thwart the company rebuilding at the site south of Hamilton.
“It all helps, we don’t want them back,” Tamahere Model Country School board of trustees chairman Mike Montgomerie told the paper yesterday after the Fire Service presented its report at a meeting in Tamahere.
His comments were supported by Tamahere resident Arnold Koppens, who predicted “civil disobedience” if Icepak was to rebuild, reported the paper in extensive, five-page coverage of the fire report which included a minute-by-minute timeline of the events of April 5.
“We’ll be using anything we can to stop them,” Mr Montgomerie said. “We think it’s entirely inappropriate to have an installation like that right next to our school.”
Also speaking after the meeting, Tamahere Community Committee chairman Dallas Fisher echoed Montgomerie’s words.
Fisher said local residents would use the fire service report as a “building block” and tool to thwart any intentions by Icepak to rebuild its facility, less than 100m from the community’s school.
“I’m pleased the report is out and I think the key question was answered that the tragedy may have been prevented if Icepak had notified the Waikato District Council that the material (400kg of highly flammable Hychill-50 refrigerant) was there.”
The Fire Service report is the first of three into the fire, and will be followed by a Labour Department report and a coroner’s report into the death of firefighter Derek Lovell. Mr Fisher anticipated the next two reports would have “more teeth” and expected the Labour Department report would show Icepak were “culpable” for the blaze.
Local resident Philippa Stevenson also took aim at Waikato District Council, which she accused of trying to “shift some of the blame on to Icepak” when the council itself had a responsibility to enforce its own resource consent conditions. A statement by the Waikato District Council noted “the quantity of propane on site at the time of the fire was reported to be around 400kg, well in excess of the permitted quantities under the district plan”.
Icepak managing director Wayne Grattan attended the meeting and afterwards was interviewed by media and issued a statement in which he described the report as “inclusive and balanced.”
It appeared to cover all the relevant issues pertaining to the explosion and fire, he said.
Belying criticism in the report of a lack of basic safety requirements such as hazard signs, Grattan said that throughout the operation of its Tamahere coolstore “matters of safety were always treated with the utmost seriousness and care.”
The company had obtained specialist advice to ensure that it met regulatory and safety requirements, which, he noted, the report confirmed were complex.
“Safety systems were in place throughout the coolstores and in the plant room, including gas detection systems,” Grattan said.
However, the report noted that the company’s flammable propane refrigerant contained no stenching agent to warn of leaks, its multi-gas detector was away for servicing and there were no compliant fire detection or protection systems or hydrants and very limited firefighting water.
The Waikato District Council also confirmed the presence of more than 400kg of propane-based gas at Icepak’s Tamahere site was “a long way in excess of what’s permitted”, the Waikato Times reported.
“The district plan limit is 100kg,” council chief executive Gavin Ion told the paper.
Council told the fire service inquiry team that it relied heavily on what Icepak said in its resource consent hearings in relation to a fire risk, meaning “that resource consent conditions dealing with fire risk were unnecessary”. Fire risk had also been covered at building consent stage. Mr Ion told the Times Icepak presented council with a fire danger requirement report prepared by a qualified professional. “We relied on the advice of that. So we were doing nothing that was out of the ordinary. It wasn’t just about `Icepak said it was okay’. There was a report provided that we relied on.”
That report was prepared as part of Icepak’s consent procedures in 2005, Mr Ion said.
“I’m pretty sure the fire design was around 2005 which was part of the actual consent processes.”
Mr Ion said the report had spelled out “a lot of learning for everyone”.
But he stopped short of taking too much responsibility for Icepak’s storage of hazardous chemicals. “What needs to be clarified is the areas of responsibility. We’re not responsible for hazardous substances. It comes under Erma to deal with hazardous substances.”
Mr Ion said Icepak’s consent issued in 2003 outlined Icepak’s responsibility as far as storage and use of propane.
Anomalies were pointed out by investigators who found that under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, Icepak was without fault as it was not storing the 400kg of propane, rather using it in a sealed refrigeration system.
However, Icepak did not have adequate signage which was in breach of the New Zealand Building Code requirements.