Icepak Coolstores has joined a Tauranga-based refrigeration company in appealing its Tamahere fire sentence, handed down in the High Court at Hamilton last month.
Icepak Coolstores director Wayne Grattan and Mobile Refrigeration Specialists (MRS) director Warren Cook both confirmed that they were only appealing the fines handed down by Judge Robert Spear – not the reparation to the injured firefighters and their families, reported the Waikato Times.
Judge Spear fined Icepak a total of $37,200 and MRS $56,000. Grattan was also fined $30,000 but he would not appeal that.
A combined total of $270,000 in reparation is due to be paid to the injured firefighters and their families. But none has been paid while the appeal process is under way.
MRS lodged its appeal last month, and Icepak Coolstores Ltd’s decision was revealed when affected parties received letters on Saturday.
Mr Grattan said Icepak based its appeal on the company’s poor financial position – an issue it believed Judge Spear overlooked.
“In the Sentencing Act and in the sentencing process the judge has a requirement to take into account the company’s financial position and he has not done that … we are asking the High Court whether that should have happened and, if it should, whether the fines should be reduced.”
Icepak was “technically” insolvent after it had to foot the bill for the clean-up costs of the Tamahere site.
Mr Grattan and Mr Cook both confirmed their appeals would not affect reparation payments.
“The appeal is about the judge’s sentence,” Mr Grattan said. “From our perspective we will be paying the reparation payments later this month. We are certainly not appealing the reparation payments, simply the fine.”
Mr Grattan said he would rather see all the money paid go to the firefighters than the judicial system. “This is a technical argument strictly based on the Sentencing Act. It’s not a re-hearing of the whole process.”
Mr Cook agreed. “I believe our reparation is about to be paid. But it’s [the appeal] definitely got nothing to do with the reparation. It’s purely about the fines.”
Mr Cook set up a new company in November – Benson Aircon NZ Ltd – with Ella van Eden, the wife of Icepak Group chairman Jan van Eden.
The future of Benson Aircon NZ Ltd depended on the fine to be determined in court, he said.
“MRS is still going and we hope to be able to trade our way out of it, but it depends on the fine,” Mr Cook said. `We’re working hand-to-mouth but we are still operating and hopefully we will be able to continue that, but I don’t know yet.”