18 Jul 2017

Cut-rate refrigerator imports defy safety standards - manufacturer

11:16 am on 18 July 2017

The country's leading commercial refrigeration company says the government does not care that cut-rate importers are making a mockery of the law.

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Skope Industries is warning commercial fridges need better regulation. Photo: 123rf

Skope Industries is a 300-worker $80-million-a-year business, with its head office in Christchurch.

"The worst-case scenario with a product like ours is someone gets electrocuted or someone catches on fire," managing director Guy Stewart said.

"And then of course, where we're going in the future with new refrigerants as we drive towards more environmentally-friendly products, you're going to have either carbon dioxide refrigeration systems that run at very high pressures - if they let go because of poor quality there could be injury - or hydrocarbons, and they're explosive."

He said responsible companies like his were paying for the industry-funded standards that others were then flouting with impunity.

Self-regulation was not working so one option would be to set up a department that actually enforced the law, and wear the inevitable costs at a consumer level, he said.

"There should be some process or duty of care that says that this product is not able to be either brought into the country or sold ... if it does not comply with the legislation.

"I just think it's absurd - if you don't want to look after the legislation, if you think the legislation's too expensive to monitor, get rid of it, don't care about electrical safety."

Mr Stewart said New Zealand liked to talk up innovation, but when it came to paying for very energy-efficient refrigeration plants versus energy-hungry cheap imports, price often won the day.

Even his company's "very good" South Korean partner was unable to make some products to meet the New Zealand standards, raising the question of how many other overseas manufacturers were capable, he said.

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Skope Industries managing director Guy Stewart Photo: supplied

And neither the electrical standards body, Energy Safety, nor the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) had asked them for feedback on the situation, he said.

"I just think it's not on their radar ... it's not important to them.

"Whenever we bring this up, the onus appears to be on us as the complainant to do the graft work, and of course I'm trying to run a business and my job's not to subsidise whatever the relevant authority is," Mr Stewart said.

Energy Safety and MBIE declined to comment.

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