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Nuplex case could spark further plant closures

By Duncan Bridgeman

Friday 1st August 2003

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Listed company Nuplex Industries says an Environment Court order to shut down part of its South Auckland site could spark more closures in built up areas.

The company has lodged an appeal to the High Court arguing the potential risk of an explosion at its East Tamaki plant was "extremely low" and steps were already being taken to further reduce the risk.

Nuplex chief financial officer Graeme Storey said yesterday if the same risk analysis was used at other sites many commercial and industrial operations currently considered safe and reliable might also be at risk of closure.

A narrow interpretation could extend to common petrol stations and airline operations having to review their safety guidelines, he said.

Nuplex was ordered to shut down its site on Wednesday until new fire safety equipment is installed, likely to take up to two months.

It expected to incur financial losses of $100,000 a month as a result.

The company argues that an "extremely unlikely" chain of events was required to cause an explosion at the site in question and was concerned that a robust analysis of the evidence was not undertaken.

The probability of a dangerous explosion was one in 10,000 years, it said.

Manukau mayor Sir Barry Curtis said the Nuplex site was a time bomb waiting to happen and should have been shut down long before the Environment Court became involved.

Sir Barry denied running a campaign to hunt down other commercial or industrial sites for similar scrutiny but said the council would act in the public interest at all times.

"If there are any firms in Manukau city operating in a way which is clear to the public at large that they are causing a hazard in relation to public safety then clearly they ought to be rectified."

Meanwhile, Nuplex is expecting to receive a renewed dangerous goods licence from the council today.

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