A brief history of the Icepak site at Tamahere.
1964: Koppens family move to Tamahere from Cambridge to establish large scale market gardening. They establish a roadside vegetable store.
1980: Arnold Koppens sets up a plant to process horticultural products, mostly kiwifruit and blueberries. It is zoned by the Waikato District Council as ‘preliminary processing’, which means that only horticultural crops can be processed and stored.
1988: The plant, including liquid nitrogen instant freezing plant, burns down. The size of the coolstore was 800sq m or approximately a tenth of the size of the 2008 plant. This coolstore is rebuilt but without the nitrogen snap freezing plant.
1990: Arnold Koppens sells his shareholding to Jan J van Eden
During the 1990s: Waikato District Council (WDC) adds two words to the district plan which have far reaching consequences and gives Icepak “existing use” rights it had not formerly had. Icepak’s business had been in horticultural processing. The council changed the wording to “horticultural processing and/or cool storage”. At a time when horticultural activity is fast disappearing from Tamahere, which is quickly turning into a rural residential area, the wording change allows cool storage of any product
(NB: Councils have no obligation to bring these wording changes to the attention of ratepayers. Local residents who could have been affected by the change are unaware of it.)
1994: Plant doubles in size. Icepak’s growth is largely driven by the dairy industry with major contracts signed with Tatua in 1994 and the NZ Dairy Board (later Fonterra) in 1997.
2002: Icepak purchases neighbouring property and is granted resource consent to construct more coolstore freezer units.
2007: Icepak requests to expand by 70% after purchasing more neighbouring land. WDC agrees to a “limited notification process”. A majority of those notified object to the limited notification and after they incur considerable legal costs WDC notifies Icepak that a full public notification process is required. Many parents of children attending nearby Tamahere School (roll 380) feel that they have no voice. The school is notified but not the parents who have major concerns about conflicting traffic movements. Icepak withdraws its application.
2008: April 5, a huge explosion at the Icepak Tamahere plant causes one of New Zealand’s worst fires, which burns for a week. Fireman Derek Lovell dies from injuries he receives from the blast and seven other firemen are seriously injured.