Ballance Agri-Nutrients is facing a large fine after a toxic gas cloud from its fertiliser manufacturing plant wafted over a group of workers and two truck drivers.

Workers at the Ballance site described seeing a “huge gas cloud” , 20 to 30m wide, heading towards Mauao. Others described it as “a plume of black smoke coming towards us”.

The gas cloud drifted from the roof of the manufacturing plant and across the Hewletts Rd site towards Totara St about 7.35am on May 22 last year.

Several people at the site and working nearby were exposed to the gas cloud. They experienced coughing, a “funny taste” in their mouths, irritation of the eyes and respiratory system, but their symptoms were relatively short-lived.

Two truck drivers employed by Winstone Transport were also treated and discharged from Tauranga Hospital after struggling to breathe.

One of the truck drivers was unable to attend work the following day due to dizziness.

In the Environment Court yesterday, the company’s chief executive Wynne pleaded guilty to a charge of discharging a contaminant, sulphur dioxide and/or fluoride, into the air.

The summary of facts showed there was a breakdown in communication between controllers during a shift change, in regards to the conveyor speed processing product.

This resulted in a build-up of fumes and about 7.30am the cloud of fluoride and sulphur dioxide fumes bypassed the treatment systems and was released.

The new shift operator was unaware the fumes had been discharged.

*Original article online at