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Ozone Layer Protection Act 1996 Prosecution

First prosecution in New Zealand under the Ozone Layer Protection Act 1996

19 June 2008

Two refrigeration engineers were recently convicted and fined at the Auckland District Court for a reckless discharge of an ozone depleting substance. This is believed to be the first prosecution of its kind under the Ozone Layer Protection Act 1996.

The two refrigeration engineers, Trevor Herbert Mason and Carl Benjamin Swete, were repairing a drink chiller at an Auckland Service Station in September last year. Part of the repairs involved cleaning a blocked condenser and whilst they were doing this an ozone depleting substance (chlorodifluoromethane HCFC22, trade name R22) was discharged.

A member of the public, with some knowledge of the refrigeration industry and the substance involved, witnessed the R22 discharge. This person warned the engineers that it was a hazardous substance they were letting off, however the pair involved didn’t take much notice of this warning. Consequently the incident was reported to the Ministry of Economic Development who administer the Act and the investigation was carried out by the Ministry’s National Enforcement Unit.

The pair were convicted of this offence on 13 June 2008 and fined $750 each plus court costs.

Protecting the ozone layer is an important priority. All HCFCs will be completely phased out by 2015 under the Montreal Protocol. Until then permit holders are still allowed to use these substances, however users need to observe best practice when handling any ozone depleting substances.

Director at the Ministry of Economic Development, Roger Wigglesworth, said “this prosecution is a strong reminder to the refrigeration servicing industry to be responsible, undertake training and to always observe best practice when handling any ozone depleting substances”.


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