Concrete Cancer Cover-up, Ctd – What’s all the fuss about?

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When you start investigating a story the interesting thing is how people respond to questions.

Some are helpful, provide information and are keen to see an issue resolved. Others are less than helpful and are keen on seeing the story shut down.

Sadly, Rob Gaimster, CEO of the Cement and Concrete Association of New Zealand (CCANZ) falls into the later category.??More on Gaimster later.

A recap is needed on why this Concrete Cancer Story needs to be told.

The basics are this;

  1. In January, February and March 2014, a cement importing company Drymix imported tens of thousands of tonnes of cement from Vietnam into New Zealand which, according to their own test results, failed to meet recognised industry standards.
  2. Drymix failed to make its test results available for public scrutiny which raised questions within New Zealand?s $400 million-a-year cement market.
  3. This cement had higher than accepted alkali content.
  4. Concrete cancer is caused by high alkali levels in cement combined with moisture in the concrete and a reactive form of silica in the aggregate. When this happens it can end up causing expansion and cracking in concrete resulting in major structural problems. ?
  5. Whaleoil?s investigations have confirmed this dodgy cement has been used in the $40.6 million Manukau District Court upgrade as well as in Fonterra?s $120 million UHT factory in Waitoa.
  6. Drymix tried to kill the story by hiring private investigators to hunt down the whistle-blowers exposing this story and hush up the multi-million dollar scandal.
  7. Industry association CCANZ then lept into the fray to, surprisingly, defend its member ? Drymix. CCANZ has spent months trying to play down concerns. CCANZ doesn?t seem concerned about the disastrous long-term consequences for dozens of building projects across the country.
  8. Two of the country?s largest construction companies ? Watts & Hughes Construction and Ebert Construction are caught up in the mess by using this cement in their construction projects. Watts & Hughes and Ebert used pre-cast panels supplied by a company called Concretec NZ Ltd? which uses cement from Drymix ? in the Ministry of Justice?s Manukau District Court building and Fonterra?s Waitoa plant.
  9. Concretec used readymix concrete from a company called Techcrete Readymix Ltd which was supplied cement from Drymix.
  10. Emails obtained by Whaleoil show Drymix was privately acknowledging to their customers that an issue did exist with the cement they imported from Vietnam ? but they didn?t alert the construction industry about concerns with precast structures.
  11. Documents show that the Ministry of Justice was told that no imported cement was used in the construction of the Manukau District Court building. Yet the Ministry confirmed precast concrete beams, wall panels and stairs were provided by precast concrete manufacturers Concretec ? and that the cement came from Drymix.
  12. Meanwhile, CCANZ (Rob Gaimster) was quietly briefing the regulator the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and providing talking points to ministry officials.
  13. Documents show the Government was advised that ?the Manukau District Court upgrade is likely to have been supplied with concrete manufactured with the imported cement in question?.
  14. Whaleoil asked CCANZ five straight-forward questions and was provided with a 128 page report by the New Zealand Ready-Mixed Concrete Association (NZRMCA) into growing industry concerns about what buildings were constructed using this Drymix cement. The RMCA Report was based largely on an ?independent report? paid for by Drymix.
  15. CCANZ then decided to say that the thousands of tonnes of cement containing high alkali levels have been ?blended?. Drymix does not have the facilities to do this, and the only place capable of undertaking this ?blending? is Fletcher?s Golden Bay Cement who confirmed to Whaleoil that they have ?not bleneded cement for Drymix Cement?.
  16. The NZRMCA Report?s Appendix C tells of ?two projects of special note?using reactive aggregates and the notionally high alkali cement?. In other words high alkali cement was used in these construction projects which Whaleoil identified as Fonterra?s Waitoa UHT factory and the Manukau District Court.
  17. Whaleoil put more questions to CCANZ who last Friday refused to answer any further questions saying the blog was ?deliberately misrepresenting the facts?.??That?s a strange position to take considering the evidence and documents that Whaleoil has sighted.
  18. Whaleoil has learned that CCANZ has spent tens of thousands of dollars of members? funds on reports that do little but confuse people with industry jargon.
  19. With MBIE officials now advising the Government that the Manukau District Court upgrade has used dodgy cement, the issue will now become the problem of the Minister of Building and Housing Nick Smith.
  20. There is one way this whole issue can be sorted out once and for all. And that is for a simple core sample to be taken from the sites mentioned above, and then sent to an independent certified lab for chemical analysis. It?s a really simple process.

Will this blow up in their face, or will the Government get ahead of this and get CCANZ to undertake core samples of the taxpayer-funded Manukau District Court upgrade and take action.

Or will John Key and Amy Adams turn up to the opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony unaware that one of their ministers has been told that the building has been made with dodgy cement.

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