Dunedin company boss fined $85k in concrete panel case

The founder of a Dunedin company has been fined $85,000 for trying to pass Chinese-made concrete cladding off as high quality Australian-made material, months after directors of other companies which sold the cladding were fined nearly $200,000 by the courts.

CFG founder Cavan Forde was sentenced in the Dunedin District Court today after pleading guilty to three representative charges of breaching the Fair Trade Act 1986.

Mr Forde was charged with making representations the panels his company offered to supply were made in Australia and manufactured under the German brand name Hebel when in fact they were manufactured in China.

In its 2012 Design Guide, the company also made representations the Supercrete 50 Cladding System was endorsed by engineering firm Opus International Consultants Ltd, when it  was not.

He did not appear in person and was represented by Auckland barrister Rob Latton.

Mr Forde was the third defendant to plead guilty in the case, and a charge against his son, Martin Forde, was withdrawn yesterday. 

Thirteen other FTA charges were withdrawn against Mr Forde snr. 

Former owner and director of Christchurch Lightweight Concrete Ltd Darryl Campbell was fined $151,875 in October last year for his part in the matter, and Supercrete Auckland Ltd former director Christopher Middleditch was fined $37,500 in February.

The charges spanned several years, from 2009 to 2012.

CFG originally had an agreement to supply Hebel-branded AAC products in New Zealand, but when that agreement ended it was reliant on importing Chinese-made AAC panels. 

A summary of facts said during that period, CFG used a network of up to  17 regional distributors to sell its building and cladding system. 

Prosecutor Sam Lowery, appearing on behalf of the Commerce Commission, said not everyone who used the cladding would read the manual.  

However, there would be people interested in the details of the material they were using.

Judge Michael Crosbie said the representations could only be seen as an attempt to convey the company's products ``in the best possible light''.

There ``ought to have been an opportunity much earlier in the piece for the error, if that's what it was, to be remedied'', he said.

A lightning strike called by the PSA disrupted proceedings in another courtroom at the Dunedin District Court on Monday morning. 

However Judge Crosbie continued with the case because it did not require court security, and because both lawyers had travelled so far. Mr Forde was fined $85,000 after taking into account mitigating factors.