Nick Smith

Concrete Cancer Cover-up, Ctd – Core samples? Easy peasy

Core Samples from the Warehouse Pakuranga, Auckland

Core Samples from the Warehouse Pakuranga, Auckland

After reading the exclusive Concrete-Cancer Cover-up series, one of our eagle-eyed Whaleoil army member spotted something they thought we would like to see – photos of where concrete core samples have been taken.

And this wasn’t overseas, this was right here in New Zealand – at the Warehouse Pakuranga in Auckland.

Last week Winston Peters hammered Minister for Building and Housing Nic Smith over officials telling the Minister’s office that the $40.6m Manukau District Court rebuild has used dodgy cement and asked why core samples haven’t been taken.

It’s a good question that the Cement and Concrete Association of New Zealand (CCANZ) gets very uppity about.

Just image if core samples of the taxpayer funded Manukau District Court building were taken and sent to an independent laboratory for testing and came back showing they have a problem.    Read more »

Concrete Cancer Coverup – Winston has Nick Smith over a barrel

Like a shark, Winston Peters can smell blood from a mile away and his target this time is Minister of Building and Housing Nick Smith.

The Government has been warned about the concrete cancer issue for near on six months now, and yesterday we saw a flustered looking Nick Smith start the ol’ political trick of shifting the blame to his officials.

Nick Smith gets up and tried to crack a funny about carpets and curtains, then tries to fob off the seriousness of the concrete cancer issue happening under his watch by saying there’s competitive issues at play within the building sector.

Really? Is that the best you can do Nick? Of course there are competitive issues inside the building industry, just like there are competitive issues across all sectors – But it doesn’t stop the very simple fact that there is a very real problem here.

You’ve got to give Winston credit when credit is due. Read more »

Armstrong: Government struggles over State Housing message

Seems that John reads Whaleoil and concurs with me that the whole Housing New Zealand housing stock upgrade has been poorly handled in terms of what the public get to know and understand about it.

Pick your way through the latest batch of just-released Cabinet papers dealing with the future of state housing and you will find the reason why the National minority Government is struggling to sell the virtues or otherwise of its radical reform of the bottom end of the housing market.

It comes down to simple bricks and mortar. Or the lack thereof. The officials who wrote the documents talk of ministers intending to give “external audiences” the constant message that the “conversation” about social housing needs to change from being focused on how many houses will remain under Housing New Zealand’s control – and thus in state ownership – and how many will be sold to “community housing providers”.

The problem is that everyone can see National selling the houses, and nobody can see National replace them with anything.   In the mean time, Labour and the Greens keep broadsiding with an “asset sale” message that, even though not correct, people can understand.   Read more »

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.   Read more »

Concrete Cancer Coverup, Ctd – What does the government know?

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You would think that with millions of tax-payers money being poured into the construction of the Manukau District Court, the Government would want to have confidence in the integrity of the building.

Following this explosive Concrete Cancer Cover-Up series on Whaleoil, government officials have had to rely on information from Rob Gaimster, the CEO of the Cement and Concrete Association of New Zealand (CCANZ).

If you listened to CCANZ, who on Monday quietly posted an update on their website, they are desperate to say that everything is all right, nothing to see here, move along.

That line didn’t work for Helen Clark.

WOBH is hearing that questions about high alkali cement problems are being raised in Wellington; not only about the potential exposure from the Manukau Court building constructed with dodgy cement from Vietnam, but whether buildings in Wellington are potentially affected.

But CAANZ seems desperate to keep digging the hole they have got themselves in, thanks in part to their support of member company Drymix.   Read more »

Is Andrea Vance miffed she wasn’t invited on the helicopter?

Andrea Vance has her knickers in a bunch over the use of a helicopter by Nick Smith to take some of the family members of Pike River victims to…and here’s the kicker…places that can only be reached by…yes your guessed…helicopter.

No-one is objecting to the source of funds.

Bernie Monk not only says its ok, he says it’s necessary

Andrea Vance needs to report what the news is, not what she would rather it was.

Cabinet minister Nick Smith has chartered another helicopter for television cameras – this time using tax-payer cash set aside for the families of the Pike River victims.

Last year Smith used $6344 of Department of Conservation money to send up a chopper for a photo opportunity with ministers Peter Dunne and Te Ururoa Flavell.

Today he was back on the West Coast for a press conference about the future of the Pike River mine site.

Families of the victims want a walking track and visitor centre to mark the place where 29 men died in 2010.   Read more »

Guest Post – Phil Hayward on Auckland and the RMA reforms

by Phil Hayward

The Auckland Unitary Plan Submission process is underway and we should soon know whether it is a charade with outcomes pre-determined and impervious to evidence. The usual suspects are also claiming once again to be able to “debunk” the latest Demographia Report on housing affordability, and even the government is embarrassed over the dismal ineffectiveness of its trumpeted “Housing Accords”.

My previous essays on this forum could usefully be read or re-read now by anyone interested in this subject.

The prevalent mythology is that Auckland already sprawls too much at low density, already has built too many roads (and that is why it is congested), is letting the floodgates re-open too much towards more new sprawl and not enough new intensification (60% of growth to be via intensification is the plan), the ramp-up in building now is major, and intensification will provide for affordability.

In fact, Auckland is around 3 times as dense as Boston, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Nashville and dozens of other US cities; is the second densest city in the Anglo New World after Toronto (pop. 6 million); is one of the densest first world urban areas of only 1 million people; is close to Amsterdam’s density and is denser than Lyon, Marseille, the Ruhr Valley and many urban areas in France and Germany, especially those with around 1 million people or less.

We have never actually had US style low density sprawl; very little of our suburban development was ever even ¼ acre sections. That always was a “dream” for most, and now nearly every such section has already had townhouses built on what was the backyard. In the USA, suburbs are common with minimum lot size mandates of 1 acre to 4 acres.  

Michael Bassett and Luke Malpass (NZ Initiative) “Priced Out: How NZ Lost its Housing Affordability” (2012) show that NZ and Auckland were during the period from the 1960’s to the 1980’s, building as many as twice as many new dwellings as now. Most of that was greenfields suburban development, albeit at considerably higher density than US-style sprawl. We now have congestion problems because there was inadequate planning of road capacity, not because we did the roads we did.

I have estimated from TomTom Traffic index data and Google Earth imagery, that Auckland has 1/3 the highway lane miles and 1/5 the arterial lane miles of Indianapolis, which has a similar population. Indianapolis in the TomTom Traffic Index, scores a congestion delay of 15 minutes per 1 hour of driving at peak (other comparable US cities are similar) versus Auckland’s 45 minutes. Of course its house price median multiple happens to be stable at around 3 as well, in spite of being truly low density, unlike Auckland.   Read more »

RMA reform will be an uphill battle

Apart from ACT, all political parties have expressed that they are against Nick Smith’s RMA review

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says it will do nothing for house prices in Auckland.

Local authorities wanted a law that was simple and less complex to manage and one that provided better outcomes for communities and economy, Local Govt New Zealand (LGNZ) president Lawrence Yule said today.

LGNZ represents the authorities whose role is to implement the Resource Management Act.

Mr Yule, who is also the Mayor of Hastings, said there was too much process prescribed by the current planning law.

“We need an act that creates more affordable housing, builds jobs and creates business and economic growth, within an environment of managing our natural resources.”

Environment Minister Nick Smith set out 10 areas of reform that will change the way councils carry out planning law.

So, to summarise:

The Green Party have gone all sulky with Genter saying there is absolutely no point working with National on RMA reform as they won’t be listened to.

The Maori party are against it, as they see Maori natural heritage under threat.

NZ First don’t like it because it doesn’t attack real problems, like immigration pressure on house prices and other RMA managed resources.

Peter Dunne’s against it, and I got too bored to understand why, but he’s not on the team.

And Andrew Little has done exactly as I predicted:  he says reform is just a ‘smoke screen’ (I used Trojan Horse) for the government to slide in the legalised rape an pillage of natural resources, all the while selling it as something that will make houses cheaper. Read more »

Will Nick Smith slash and burn the RMA? Or will it be as effective as his housing efforts?

Well, all the talk is positive on Day One…

Environment Minister Nick Smith is planning “the most significant overhaul” to the Resource Management Act (RMA) since its introduction 25 years ago.

The wide-ranging changes were outlined during a speech in Nelson [ last night ], in which Dr Smith said the enormous amount of red tape was delaying the development of new houses, jobs and doesn’t manage resources such as freshwater well.

The RMA governs the use of water, land, air and coast and protects heritage, native plants and animals.

“The Act is not working for New Zealand or New Zealanders. It is making housing too expensive. It is hampering job and export growth. It is stymying much-needed infrastructure,” he says.

“Tinkering with the RMA won’t do. The Act has some fundamental design flaws that require substantial overhaul.”

The Act has become a straight jacket on the economy.  Smith is right in as much that it is too big to fix.  It needs to be started again.   Read more »

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 »