Fonterra

Concrete Cancer Coverup: What is industry body telling govt?

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We’ve seen a right palaver as Whaleoil has gradually unpicked and exposed the cover-up in New Zealand’s $400 million concrete industry.

We’ve also exposed how Fonterra’s $120 million Waitoa UHT plant and the Government’s $40.6 million Manukau Court Building was supplied dodgy cement that is likely to see those buildings subject to a problem called alkali silica reaction or more commonly known as concrete cancer.   Read more »

Concrete Cancer Coverup – More sunlight needed

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The Whaleoil investigation into a cover-up in the $400 million concrete industry now has documents that show the new $40.6 million Manuaku District Court and Fonterra’s $120 million Waitoa UHT factory have been made with dodgy cement.

As more documents are provided to Whaleoil, the more the cover-up becomes not only  a case of incompetence on the part of the officials responsible for overseeing construction of buildings, but also a desperate attempt at trying to confuse anyone that looks into this issue.   Read more »

Is Dairy Rooted?

The boom in the New Zealand economy has been led by massive dairy intensification. It is also the driver behind silly socialist projects like the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme where townie councillors have bought into government and Federated Farmers spin about the future being dairy and they are promoting economic models based on boom years that are unsustainable in bust years. Even so the proposals can’t work without massive subsidies or government grants even in boom years.

Yet no one has really stopped to question what the real long-term price of milk solids is, and if it is a sustainable long-term path to prosperity for New Zealand.

After last years boom prices there was not much consideration to what was going on world-wide, especially with the Chinese Market.

In the Sydney Morning Herald, their business editor wrote a good article comparing dairy in New Zealand to iron ore in Australia. I slammed it at the time, but have had a bit more of a think about it, plus some additional research over the holiday break.

Uppity Kiwis feeling boastful about their dollar approaching parity with the mighty Aussie might do well to stick to rugby for their kicks. Their China-driven boom is coming to an end as quickly as Australia’s. And they have less to fall back on when it does.

Meanwhile, reports of Gina Rinehart going long on dairy farms could prove as reliable a warning as many another billionaire diversifying outside his or her area of expertise.

The New Zealand economy’s resurgence has owed much to China’s demand for milk products and getting in early for a comprehensive free trade agreement with the Middle Kingdom.

Trouble is, China has been busily investing and encouraging others to invest in increased and globally diversified milking. Just as iron ore miners have ramped up production both from existing provinces and new projects from Africa to Mongolia, New Zealand’s farmers are facing increased competition from South America to Russia and all points in between, including Australia.

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Perhaps if he cut down the beersies he might be able to afford Christmas [UPDATED]

UPDATE:  The missing headline:

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Some people really are too stupid to save themselves.

Check this article from Fairfax where a poor hard done by farmer has decided to cancel Christmas in his household because the forecast payout from Fonterra is projected to be low.

Dairy farmers Liam and Louise Zander won’t be giving each other presents this Christmas after learning that Fonterra’s downward revision of the milk payout will strip hundreds of thousands of dollars from their income.

Dairy NZ figures released yesterday showed the revision from $8.40 per kg of milksolids last season down to a forecast $4.70 this season would remove $1.8 billion from the Waikato economy and hit the average dairy farmer’s income by $500,500.

“No Christmas presents for us this year,” Louise, who has two young children, said. “But that is just life as a dairy farmer.

“I will also have to look for a part-time job to help.”

Liam was more philosophical about the cut.

“You can’t really do much. You just have to keep chugging along. It’s one of those ups and downs in dairy farming.

“I try not to let it affect me too much. There’s no point dwelling over things you have no control over.”

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Concrete Cancer Coverup, ctd

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This time last week Whaleoil continued with its series exposing a concrete cancer cover-up within the $400m New Zealand concrete market.

The tip-line has been abuzz with concerns from Wellington insiders close to the Cement and Concrete Association of New Zealand (CCANZ).

They are deeply concerned that CCANZ has hitched their wagon to the company at the centre of the cover-up – cement importer Drymix, and that the exposure of the concrete cancer issue is not going to end well for the industry body.

These insiders are worried that CCANZ’s position is compromising the integrity of the wider concrete industry and are not happy with how they are managing the growing concerns and unease within the construction and building sectors.

Last week CCANZ held a crisis meeting in Wellington where they obviously decided that they’re too deep in the hole and that the better option is to keep digging. Let’s see how that works out for them.   Read more »

Who else is big business going to back Fran?

Poor bitter old Ms. O’Sullivan, she has gone from defaming me and Cactus Kate to treating us like Voldemort in her latest column.

Now she is just spraying poop everywhere like a mad old bint. Not for her to discuss the slamming of her and her employers in the Chisholm report…oh no…instead she comes up with a crazy conspiracy theory that big business has gone cold on John Key because he talks to bloggers.

Who has she been consulting? The payroll clerk at Fonterra, or the person she sends invoices to at the Business Initiative?

Key needs to reflect. The Herald’s Mood of the Boardroom Election survey of CEOs found that 62 per cent felt “Brand Key” had been damaged by the Nicky Hager revelations, 66 per cent believed it exposed an unhealthy relationship between politicians and bloggers and 76 per cent of those surveyed raised issues of political probity concerning Judith Collins.

They wanted him to learn the lessons from the Dirty Politics scandal.

Really? Sounds like those business leaders need a remedial lesson in politics…did any of them notice the result of the election? Did Fran?

Dirty Politics won the election for John Key, not the other way around.   Read more »

Did Key never exploit weakness when he was at Merrill Lynch?

John Key has said that government officials have been telling privately owned companies that they shouldn’t exploit market gaps as a result of sanctions against Russia, because it would apparently be a bad look for NZ.

Mr Key also revealed that although New Zealand has not officially imposed trade sanctions on Russia, government officials had called in Fonterra and other companies to ask them not to exploit the gap left in the Russian market. Mr Key said it was made clear that would be a terrible look for New Zealand – and while the Government could not stop them doing so, he believed they were acting responsibly.

Fonterra general manager of trade strategy Robb Stevens yesterday confirmed the Government “has asked agricultural exporters, including Fonterra, to show restraint and not take advantage of the restrictions imposed on other nations”.

How pathetic.  Read more »

Concrete Cancer Coverup, Ctd

by Stephen Cook

THE COMPANY accused of using suspect cement imported cheaply from overseas in its precast concrete products has gone into damage control mode as the spotlight shifts to its role in the whole controversy

With nine years in the business, Concretech New Zealand Ltd claim to be one of this country’s leading pre-cast concrete suppliers with “strict quality control systems… to meet any challenge, no matter how architecturally demanding.”

However, rhetoric is one thing – reality can be quite another.

The focus is now on Concretec’s role in the whole scandal after claims from industry insiders the company may have unwittingly used suspect cement from Vietnam in pre-cast concrete products it later supplied to several major construction companies.

That cement, which had higher than usual alkali levels, was imported by Drymix who control about five percent of the $400 million-a-year cement market and through Mitre 10 supply the domestic market with the highly-popular ‘Super Easy Mix In The Bag’ range of cement products.

In January, February and March this year Drymix imported tens of thousands of tonnes of cement, which according to their own test samples, failed to meet recognised industry standards.

Drymix supply cement to a company called Techcrete, who make readymix concrete which they supply to Concretec who supply precast concrete products to companies like Watts & Hughes and Ebert Construction,.

Both these companies are also facing questions after concerns that suspect cement may have been used in the $40 million Manukau District Court upgrade and Yashili’s $250 million plant at Pokeno.

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Concrete Cancer Coverup, Ctd

Aerial simulation of Yashili's Pokeno plant

Aerial simulation of Yashili’s Pokeno plant

By Stephen Cook

THE WALLS are closing in on two giants of the New Zealand construction industry as more details emerge about how they turned a blind eye to concerns over potential structural issues with building projects running into the tens of millions of dollars.

The focus of the so-called concrete cancer controversy has now shifted to why two of this country’s construction industry heavyweights chose to do nothing when confronted with the news that suspect cement may have been used in at least two of their recent projects.

Up until now Watts & Hughes Construction and Ebert Construction have kept a safe   distance from the whole Drymix controversy, but last week both were forced to front foot the issue after claims suspect imported cement may have been used in two of their recent large-scale projects.

At first Watts & Hughes company director Rob Murphy said he’d never even heard of Drymix but then shortly afterwards acknowledged he was aware of issues surrounding high alkali levels in cement the company had imported earlier this year from Vietnam.

Murphy confirmed that Concretec had supplied his company with all the precast panels for the new $40 million Manukau Courthouse upgrade, but claimed there’d been no use of imported cement.

Concretec’s cement comes from Drymix.

“I am there weekly. I am with the consultants, the owners, the ministry, the whole shooting box and it’s news to me,” he said.

“There’s no issue. We are happy with the information we have received from our consultants,” he said before abruptly hanging up.

Ron McDonald of Ebert Construction, who built Yashili’s $250 million plant at Pokeno, also tried playing down the controversy.

He confirmed his company had subcontracted Concretec for the Fonterra job, but said where that company sourced its cement from was its business and not something he personally concerned himself with.    Read more »

Are we at Peak Dairy?

Eric Watson suggests we have reached the maximum production capacity.  We can not really make more.  So what next?

New Zealand has led the world developing technologies to maximise output from our limited land resources. Unfortunately, I believe we are close to reaching the geoclimatic and biological limits of our “pasture-based” model.

The reality is, the gap between the maximum potential yield of New Zealand’s pastures and utilisation of this pasture has diminished to the point where little incremental growth in production is possible without alternative feed sources.

It is no surprise that continued increases in dairy production have gone hand in hand with significant increases in the use of imported supplementary feed stuffs, such as palm kernel which, with increased rates of applied nitrogen, contribute to nutrient loading on dairy farms.

New Zealand is caught between the necessity for economic growth and our obvious geoclimatic limitations.

As an isolated exporter of commodity dairy products, our opportunities to add to our export value without increasing volume is limited, but to maintain our market share we need to increase volume.

New Zealand’s dairy exporters have continued to explore opportunities for value-added products to increase our export values, but these initiatives are dwarfed by the impact of volume in the major commodity dairy products we export, and ultimately this is what motivates our farmers and the dairy industry.

The key here is the ability, or rather the efficiency, of ecosystems to convert nutrient inputs into product.

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