Icepak proposes to rise from ashes

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Icepak has given notice that it intends restoring refrigeration operations to the Tamahere coolstore that survived the explosion and inferno that razed 90% of the site in April.

The company, which faces charges over alleged health and safety breaches in relation to the fatal blast and fire, is also seeking to retain the resource consents that provide for fullscale coolstore operation on the site.

Neither move will be popular with the Tamahere community, which last week was relieved to learn that Icepak had put the site up for sale. But the company’s latest moves, laid out in a letter to the Tamahere Community Committee (TCC), mean coolstore operations of a pre-fire scale could return to the site.

In the letter to TCC chairman Dallas Fisher, Icepak managing director Wayne Grattan said the company wanted a “managed exit” from Tamahere, which included using the remaining coolstore until the site was sold and “ensuring that the site’s commercial status is preserved” by keeping the current consents with the land “in order that value of the site can be recognised”.

Put simply, if the land is sold complete with resource consents for coolstores then coolstores could again rise on the site – a prospect opposed by many in the Tamahere community according to a flood of feedback to the Tamahere Fire Action Group.

Fisher said he would discuss Icepak’s letter with the Waikato District Council (WDC) before deciding what action to take.

In May, WDC said it had notified Icepak that it was reviewing its resource consents “to determine whether the conditions of consent are appropriate.” The review process would take some months and, subject to legal advice, could involve public participation, WDC said.

In September, following release of the Fire Service report into the fire, the council reiterated that the consents were still under review.

WDC chief executive Gavin Ion said in a statement that at all times during Icepak’s resource and building consent processes, fire risk had been assessed “based on evidence presented by Icepak regarding the type of refrigerant to be used on site.

“Up until 2003 Icepak had been using R22 (freon) a low flammable gas. In addition, the 2003 resource consent contained a condition which prohibited storage or use of hazardous substances exceeding the quantities for permitted activities as set out in the district plan without council’s prior approval.

“The quantity of propane on site at the time of the fire,” Ion said, “was reported to be around 400kg, well in excess of the permitted quantities under the district plan.”

Icepak was required to obtain formal approval from the council’s Hazardous Substances Officer for the use and storage of the highly flammabale propane in such quantities, Ion said.

“It failed to seek and obtain that approval. Had Icepak done so it would have triggered a review by council of both the resource and building consents.

“As the [Fire Service] report states, such a change in refrigerant should also have triggered notification by Icepak to the Fire Service so that an evacuation plan could be prepared, and appropriate signage, under HSNO, could be put in place,” Ion said.

Click here for the icepak-letter-to-tamahere-community

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