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Monday, March 06, 2006

Where there's smoke... a toxic arson cluster

On the 6th of February I reported:
Second plastics fire

TV3 is reporting a huge fire at a South Auckland plastics factory. Is it in any way connected with the plastics recycling factory that was struck by fire a week or so ago? Insurance pay-outs for struggling firms? Any links here, or unrelated coincidences? Hmmm.

At 7/2/06 12:37 AM, t selwyn said...
Hmmm, another TV3 update says it was a plastics recycling plant. Hmmm, two in as many weeks. How coincidental. How very, very coincidental.


From the NZ Herald files:

Fire destroys plastics factory in Otaki
Published: Monday 23, January 2006
Firefighters from all around Horowhenua, Kapiti and Wellington were this morning fighting a massive blaze at a [Pacific Plastics] plastic recycling factory in Otaki. The blaze is the latest in a string of fires that have stretched firefighting resources around the country over the weekend.

Recycling factory destroyed in fierce blaze
Published: Tuesday 07, February 2006
A ferocious fire destroyed a plastics recycling factory in Auckland yesterday, sending plumes of thick smoke across the Southern Motorway and into the skies. The fire was already raging through the Advanced Plastics building in Bassant Ave, Penrose, when the Fire Service arrived...

And then on Saturday:

From RNZ:
The Fire Service says the fire at V.J. Distributors, an oil and chemical storage depot, is now under control, but the building has been completely destroyed....

From XtraMsn:
The Fire Service was called at 11.30am and 12 trucks are at the scene.

From TVNZ:
A huge fire at an oil and chemical storage depot in Hastings completely destroyed the building and spread toxic smoke that could be seen from 25 kilometres away. One hundred firefighters and 80 fire engines used thousands of litres of water and foam to fight the blaze at V.J. Distributors, an oil and cleaning products supplier.

Is VJ Distributors also in the recycling business? Why, yes, they are - oil recycling. But no links I can trace to the plastics business.

The first two fires are highly suspicious.
1. They occured within two weeks of each other.
2. Both are plastics recyclers.
3. Both occured on public holidays (Pacific Plastics in Otaki on Wellington Anniversay Day holiday & Advanced Plastics on Waitangi Day).

Now we have a third fire at a North Island recycling plant a month later (on a Saturday).

Q. Have there been some earlier in other places? Are there going to be more? Should all recycling plants be on alert? What are the other links between them?

The Companies Office records show multiple companies surrounding these three firms but there is no evidence of any over-lapping directorships outside of the groups (at least that I can find). Incomplete summary:

Director: VAN DUYN, Neil Roger
Shareholders: VAN DUYN, Ian Neil/VAN DUYN, Neil Roger

Directors: CRIBB, Robert Clifford Hoani/CRIBB, John Hoani/CRIBB, Caroline Rowena
Shareholders: CRIBB, Robert Clifford Hoani/POLSON, WILLIAM JOHN/CRIBB, Caroline Rowena/CRIBB, John Hoani

Directors: GEOR, Peter Michael/WILLIAMS, Vaughn Addison
Shareholder: GEOR, Peter Michael

I note that VJ Distributors sponsors horse races - the other firms have no evidence that I can find of horse racing involvement.

Some of the companies are in recievership or liquidation; but that is nothing unusual. Nor is it suspicious that the Cribb family or others have so many companies registered - that is common, especially when recycling is only part of their operation.

The two plastics firms both appear in some databases on the plastics industry; but that is obvious and natural.

There may be contractual relationships between them that would be unlisted so internet searches can only go so far. An obvious question is: were the plastics recyclers under financial pressure or threatened by anyone? Was there any advantage to having a plastics plant burn down?

Scoop's 25/01/2006 report:
Kapiti Coast District Council is providing land for temporary storage and a concession for rates and access to the Council’s landfill at no cost to assist the recovery of Otaki’s Pacific Recyclers after the factory was burnt to the ground.

The Chair of the Otaki Community Board, Andre Baker said, “I am greatly heartened by the immediate response received from Council management to my request to assist Pacific Plastic Recyclers Ltd.

“Mayor Alan Milne and myself met with John Cribb, General Manager, yesterday morning before the site was blessed to pledge our support on behalf of the Otaki Community Board and Kapiti Coast District Council.

“I am pleased to report that arrangements have been made to provide land for storage, a concession for rates has been brokered and access to the Council’s landfill has been arranged at no cost to Pacific Plastic Recyclers Ltd.”

And Stuff's 27/02/2006 report:
U-turn saves 27 Otaki jobs
An about-face by Work and Income has saved the jobs of 27 staff at an Otaki plastics recycling plant.

Their jobs – among 35 at Pacific Plastics Recyclers – had been at risk after a suspicious fire gutted the plant on January 23.

The company said Work and Income had said it would help the staff while the factory was rebuilt, possibly through Task Force Green funding, though Work and Income denied this and said the firm did not qualify for the scheme.

However, in a turnaround Work and Income has agreed in principle to provide Task Force Green funding to help the company retain staff while the factory is rebuilt, a job likely to take six months.

Pacific Plastics general manager John Cribb said staff would be told about it at a meeting today. "I'm pleased with this. It took a bit of dealing but I didn't give up.

"We could have just closed the doors and just hired enough people to carry on."

He was grateful for the help of Otaki MP Darren Hughes, who set up a meeting with Social Development and Employment Minister David Benson-Pope.

Swaying Mr Benson-Pope were the plant's role in recycling material that would otherwise go into landfills, and the difficulty several workers would face in getting other jobs in the area.

Last August Scoop reported on staffing issues:

Pay talks start today for 1300 plastics workers at more than 50 companies.

The Plastics Industry Collective Agreement was the first multi-employer collective agreement negotiated under the Employment Relations Act, and is one of the largest such agreements in the private sector.

Claims by the workers, who are members of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, include a 7.9 per cent pay rise. The agreement was last negotiated in 2003.

Were staff wages an issue?

Just what the fuck is going on? Because if these arsons suspicious blazes continue it's not just the environment and businesses and nearby property that will suffer - someone may be killed. This toxic cluster needs to be investigated thoroughly - insurers, police and the fire service.

1. Totally unrelated and unconnected coincidental fires.
2. Serial arsonist
3. Insurance scams
4. Nefarious business collusion

I do not wish to cast aspertions on anyone or any business or staff. The apparent loss of plant must be traumatic. I raise these scenarios because they beg to be asked. I am not drawing conclusions and mean no harm in mentioning names, dates and details here. I do so because there may be a possibility that someone reading this may be able to put the pieces together (if there is something to be made of it at all).


At 6/3/06 2:50 pm, Blogger t selwyn said...

I could also add another Scenario - a hybrid of 2 and 4 being a hostile bid by a rival firm to put their competition out of business.

At 7/3/06 4:08 pm, Anonymous Reasonable Ray said...

Haven't a number of recycling/collection concerns closed shop in Cant'y recently due to it being uneconomic to ship old bottles and shit to the NI for recycling? I think Timaru was a centre mentioned. Burn down your NI competition so it has to stay in the South?

At 7/3/06 7:02 pm, Blogger t selwyn said...

Yeah I heard about that - in Trashburton I believe.

On TV One tonight there was a report of a fire at a Tauranga (service station?) housing tyres. The reporter noted the recent spate of fires and said it takes about 6 months to investigate them. I have to find out whether that was a recycling depot.

At 22/10/06 10:31 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd say self inflicted. Referring to Advanced Plastics fire- research on the net shows 900,000+ lawsuit loss afew months earlier. The lawsuit was filed by Neil van Duyn/Advanced Plastics against company he denies being "in business/partnership" with another party- Judge DID NOT rulein his favour.
Sounds like a disgruntled Neil van Duyn may have taken matters in his own hands- maybe he deserves the loss- hopefully the insurance company will do diligant research.


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