Concrete Cancer Coverup: What is industry body telling govt?


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.  

With the industry body The Cement and Concrete Association of New Zealand (CCANZ) caught out saying “no concrete in breach has been sold into the market” yet the Report by the New Zealand Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NZRMCA) confirming that concrete with high alkali content has gone into the Waitoa UHT plant and Manukau Court house, you’ve got to wonder what the Government is being told.

CCANZ’s CEO Rob Gaimster has been “updating MBIE, the regulator” who in turn will no doubt be advising the Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith.

As Minister, Nick Smith is ultimately responsible for ensuring building and construction methods are at the highest standards, so not knowing about this issue is not an option. His political advisers will know the fall-out if the minister is not all over this.

However documents sighted by Whaleoil raise questions about whether Nick Smith will actually get the right answers when the likes of the Ministry of Justice is confusing cement with concrete.

With the devil in the detail, you could forgive the officials for not understanding things like mix designs, nominal alkali levels, and blended cement.

But you can’t as easily turn a bling eye when Whaleoil has uncovered that so-called experts are deeply embedded in trying to cover-up this concrete cancer issue because it is all too hard, too technical and complicated and hopefully it all goes away.

Gaimster and the NZRMCA’s Plant Audit Committee are in a right pickle.

They now have to rubbish the New Zealand test results they insisted that cement importer Drymix get, in order for their Drymix’s customers’ concrete plants to be giving their grading certificates.

The irony is that either CCANZ or NZRMCA made Drymix get the New Zealand test results that didn’t comply in the first place, because (rightly so), the NZRMCA didn’t trust cement certificates from the Vietnamese cement manufacturers.

So where to from here?

Whaleoil believes that further questions need answering and CCANZ, as the industry body, should be in a position to answer them. More importantly, government officials briefing Government ministers on this need to know what questions to ask in order to get the right answers.

Considering what is at stake, in terms of buildings made with dodgy concrete, opening the door and exposing the cover-up makes Whaleoil stand out against MSM who continue to have their heads in the sand on this explosive story.

Whaleoil is now waiting on CCANZ to answer these questions.

  1. Is the NZRMCA Report being peered reviewed? If so, by whom?
  2. Does the NZRMCA PAC believe that the report by Dr Larry Gaerty to be independent? If so, why?
  3. On the basis that Dr Larry Gaerty was presumably paid for this report, who provided funds for it or paid for this report?
  4. Can you confirm that the NZ testing undertaken by Drymix was at the request of the NZRMCA or was it CCANZ?
  5. What 7 concrete plants were identified as using Drymix cement?
  6. What 2 companies were in breach and what plants were they?
  7. With reference to Action point 8 – please provide the mix designs for the concrete plants in question regarding the 0.62% result and an explanation of how it ended up being 2.42 kg/m3.
  8. With reference to Action point 7 – how did Drymix supply cement at a nominal alkali level of 0.6% to dedicated silos?
  9. How much 35MPa and above concrete was produced by the plants involved for the 6 month period concerned, and where did this concrete go?
  10. Why did Drymix hide the NZ test results and the Vietnam test results for 6 months?
  11. Why did Drymix delete the September 2013 test results off its website mid 2014?
  12. What response does CCANZ have to the view that Drymix hid the results in order to protect themselves?
  13. Has any core samples been taken from any of the jobs that were supplied cement by Drymix? If so, what were the results? If no core samples have been taken, why not?
  14. In the PAC report it is acknowledged that there has been prolonged debate on the validity of the Drymix figures. On this basis wouldn’t taking core samples be part of the overall response to resolve questions about ASR?
  15. With reference to Action point 9 – why is Drymix continuing to purchase off Vicem Bimsom when the cement they produce result in out-of-spec concrete for the NZ market?
  16. Is CCANZ aware of Drymix being provided a guarantee by Vicem Bimson that the cement they were selling to Drymix would be under 0.6%? If not, why not?
  17. Can CCANZ confirm the arrival dates of the Vicem and Vissai cements into NZ?
  18. With reference to shipment #7 in the Gaerty Report, which aligns NZ and Vietnam testing results at over 0.65%, how was this cement handled from an ASR perspective?
  19. What does CCANZ consider to be the best method of blending cements in NZ?
  20. With reference to Sampling and Testing – could CCANZ please explain 0.65 – 0.67 on a blended cement?
  21. With reference to Appendix – Is PAC saying only 2 or 3 jobs were done in this 9-month period with 40 MPa? Have they considered the precast panels in the Yashili plant building supplied by Concretec Mangere, Auckland?
  22. Who supplied the PAC with the list of 40 MPa jobs?
  23. Can CCANZ or the PAC confirm that the Ministry of Justice’s Manukau District Court project is out of spec of 2.82 kg/m3? Documents Whaleoil has seen state the cement content to be 400 kg/m3 not 380 kg/m3.
  24. Has CCANZ or the PAC considered taking a core sample from the floor of Fonterra’s Waitoa plant? Further to this, does CCANZ believe that it has a responsibility to inform end-users of potential ASR issues impacting their buildings?

You can see that there’s more to this story… a lot more.


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  • symgardiner

    I’d add a couple of other questions..,

    Is Fonterra confident in the integrity of their plant?
    Is the MoJ confident in the integrity of their new building?
    Are the insurers of these facilities confident in the integrity of these facilities?

    • Dave_1924

      Question 3 there is a biggie. I am sure they will have a slide out of liability if someone has knowingly used faulty inputs in the building construction…

  • GoingRight

    I thought cement and concrete were one of the same thing! just as well I am not in the industry.

    • rangitoto

      Cement is a component of concrete. Cement is mixed with aggregate, water and other stuff like silica fume depending on the type of concrete required.

    • The science behind various types of concrete for various purposes is actually quite amazing.

  • shykiwibloke

    Some legal-beagle may help here – would it help the eventual court proceedings to have some of the evidential documents you have collected witnessed, registered, sighted or whatever legal process is available for something like this?

  • Fonterra shareholders better set money aside for a drawn-out legal battle.

    • Jafarma

      Trouble is shareholders will wanna get paid every cent possible given the low payout they’re facing. Any request from Fonterra to cough up for this would go down worse than more bad payout news. So as Alfred says I’d expect there will be plenty of questions (and hopefully some credits to WOBH for bringing this matter to shareholders attention).

  • Dr Wang

    Fonterra must still be happy with concrete construction – their new expansion project down in Pahiatua is a huge precast concrete building (must be 40m high).

  • Bartman

    Your willingness to pursue this matter is to be lauded, it cuts to the heart of a major industry and the trust that the consumer has in the integrity of that and other industries.
    I hope that the pressure brings about the necessary response from the minister and that, even if it means replacing costly investments, the right outcome is achieved.
    No doubt the MSM will pick up the story as they start the demolition, a delicious irony!