Scuba diver gasping for answers after air compressor he bought produces carbon monoxide at unsafe levels

Scuba divers know their air supply is their lifeline - but a diver has had his faith in one manufacturer shaken by the discovery the air compressor he bought for home fills was making carbon monoxide in excess of the breathing air quality standards and was unsafe.

Tim Matheson just wanted to fill his own bottles – but it turned into a frustrating saga. Source: Fair Go

"I was floored. I was breathing that air, my partner at the time was breathing it, and her 18-year-old son", said Tim Matheson.

A technical advisor to the NZ Underwater Association described the air compressor as "a loaded gun".

Mr Matheson's worst fears were realised after he shelled out $1600 for a professional air quality investigation on his Nardi Compressori Atlantic 100 electric dive compressor - a machine he’d already paid $5200 to buy new just before Christmas 2014.

The keen recreational diver told Fair Go he bought it for convenience but became concerned when the air tasted oily.

"You sort of got used to it," Mr Matheson said.

"Sometimes you just come up and you don't feel that well but whether it's that or the boat rocking around or whatever."

Mr Matheson made multiple attempts to return the dive compressor to the New Zealand agent for the Italian manufacturer, but the agent, Ben Vallings, determined that the customer was to blame.

"He's obviously caused a lot of these problems", Mr Vallings told Fair Go.

Mr Matheson admits that for some months he used a type of oil that was suitable for dive compressors but was not the oil recommended by the manufacturer.

He also installed an hour meter to the on/off switch to keep track of maintenance requirements.

Both voided his warranty and the agent says it made him believe the owner was at fault for the bad air.

Mr Vallings was unmoved by the report showing carbon monoxide was being made above the NZ Standard – this too he blamed on the customer.

"I think he's ruined the machine over the time and not been caring for it," he said.

The technical advisor to the NZ Underwater Association reviewed the report and shared its concerns.

"An electric compressor should not be producing carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is found from exhaust fumes and so there's a major, major problem with it," said the advisor, Steve Bishop.

"It's producing unbreathable air," he said.

Nardi strongly denies that and maintains the machines are safe, that thousands exist and no-one has died.

Nardi also disclosed that Mr Matheson's machine was made in 2014 under an old standard for carbon monoxide that permitted levels three times higher than today’s standard – and that the levels being produced by his machine were well below that original standard.

The company said all compressors manufactured after the update comply with the new standard and they offered to fix Mr Matheson's compressor a few months ago.

That offer - comprising of new oil and a filter - came after Mr Matheson's repeated insistence something was seriously wrong.

It was also made at least two years after the modifications to the standard were introduced.

The agent, Ben Vallings, denies liability but after Fair Go became involved he refunded the original sales price of the compressor to defend Nardi's reputation, and also paid Tim Matheson half the cost of the technical report, for a total settlement of $6000.

Mr Vallings told Fair Go he had sold about ten of the electric compressors, and had received no complaints about them.

He had not contacted the owners to check their air quality for carbon monoxide.

The NZ Underwater Association urged all divers to meet the commercial standards for air fills by taking three steps:

• Ordering a test of their compressors every 3 months they are in use, at a cost of less than $200.

• Becoming certified air fillers if they are doing home fills, at a similar one-off cost.

• Checking that the dive shops they use are up to date with those requirements.



Do you know who this is? Public help sought after aggravated robbery in Porirua

Police are turning to the public for help after an aggravated robbery in Porirua.

On September 6, a man holding a firearm demanded money and cigarettes from the Corinna Superette, on Corinna St. 

He was wearing a brown t-shirt, red sleeves and with a white hood. The alleged offender also had on ripped jeans, red Chuck Taylor shoes and had a tattoo on his left index finger and thumb. 

Anyone with information can call Porirua Police on 04 238 1400 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. 

Robbery in porirua
Source: Supplied

TODAY'S
TOP STORIES

Photos: NZDF spot over 100 whales during census of NZ's southern right whales

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has carried out a census of southern right whales, or tohora, in the New Zealand Sub-Antarctic Islands, the agency said in a statement.

Air Commodore Tim Walshe, the NZDF's Air Component Commander, said more than 100 whales were spotted during a surveillance patrol by a Royal New Zealand Air Force p-3K2 Orion aircraft at Auckland Islands and Campbell Island.

"In this Orion patrol, we took aerial photos to assist the Department of Conservation (DOC) in tracking individual whales, building a better picture of the species as a whole and monitoring the recovery of these protected species," Air Commodore Walshe said.

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) sighted more than 100 whales during a surveillance patrol at Auckland Islands and Campbell Island. Source: NZDF

DOC Manager Marine Species and Threats Ian Angus said the census results found that the southern right whale population, which is classified as 'nationally vulnerable', is continuing to recover from the significant impact of whaling and other threats.

Whaling decimated the southern right whale population from more than 30,000 at the turn of the 20th century to less than 150 in 1920, DOC said. Their number was estimated at 2000 in 2009.

"We've always known that the southern right whales spend the winter and spring around the Sub-Antarctic Islands but getting down there at this time of the year is challenging," Mr Angus said.

Aerial photos were taken to assist the Department of Conservation (DOC) in tracking individual southern right whales. Source: NZDF

"In partnership with the NZDF, we have been able to monitor some of our wildlife and continue to understand when and how southern right whales are using the Sub-Antarctic Islands.

"We're looking forward to working with the NZDF and other researchers to glean all the information from the many images that were taken."

The New Zealand Defence Force deployed an Orion aircraft to carry out a census of southern right whales in the New Zealand Sub-Antarctic Islands. Source: NZDF

TODAY'S
FEATURED STORIES

Police reject claims of Maori bias in pursuits

Police deny bias is largely to blame for the high number of Māori involved in police pursuits.

Inspector Dave Simpson of Counties Manukau Police reveals more shocking details about the fatal crash in South Auckland this morning.

Figures show that in the last four years more Māori were warned, charged, and killed in police pursuits than any other ethnic group.

Lawyer Moana Jackson said bias in the police force was largely to blame, but Acting Deputy Police Commissioner Andy Coster rejected that.

"Māori make up more than half of drivers who flee from police so it's a really important figure to note that there is an alignment between people who flee and people who are charged.

"For the most part we don't get the opportunity to know the ethnicity of the driver before we take steps to stop the vehicle."

Police figures show the second most common reason police engage in pursuits is because of suspicious vehicle behaviour.

"It could be a vehicle that's seen in circumstances perhaps we're patrolling in an area for relation to a burglary or some other offence," Mr Coster said.

"Maybe a vehicle that observes a police car and ducks off down a side street suddenly."

Lawyer Deborah Manning, who has advised families of people killed in police pursuits, said Māori may not be getting the same level of discretion as others when police choose to pursue a vehicle.

"When you look at the categories of reasons for engaging in a pursuit of a fleeing driver they include discretionary assessments from officers including 'suspicious behaviour' so there are matter for discretion.

"It's very clear that there is a problem that Māori are over-represented and that this really needs to be looked at and faced head-on."

She is convinced ethnic bias was at play.

"I just have to reiterate what others have said about possible reasons for this, in terms of unconscious bias.

"Just hearing on the radio time and time again about essentially young Māori men winding up killed after a police pursuit."

The death of 15-year-old Morocco Tai following a police pursuit in October last year added to the alarming Māori death toll .

Thirteen people have died in police pursuits since 2014 - nine of them Māori.

His mother, Jo-Ann Stevens, said she was unsure about bias in the police, but said the police took no responsibility and blamed the family for the death of her son.

"To be honest it just felt like they pushed it under the carpet and they were blaming the family because he was a troubled teen.

"I also think they need to apologise to all these families that have been in the same situation. I've never heard anything from the police since my son had died."

A review of the police pursuit policy is due to be released by the end of the year.

- Reporting by Te Aniwa Hurihanganui, Te Manu Korihi Reporter

www.rnz.co.nz


Topics


Who are NZ's homeless? Thousands of Kiwi kids and it could be getting worse, expert warns

An estimated one in 100 New Zealanders are homeless with 24 per cent of the total homeless population being children and there are warnings this number could be higher.

According to 2013 census data, which was collated by the University of Otago, Wellington's Dr Kate Amore in her Severe Housing Deprivation in New Zealand study, around 41,000 Kiwis are classed as homeless.

"Before we did this we had no idea what the scale of homelessness was and if you need to address something you need to measure it and I think it has changed the conversation about homelessness," Dr Amore told 1 NEWS.

The data has always been collected every census but wasn't tapped into until 2001 when the first study by Dr Amore was published.

"This is the first work that shows the scale of the problem."

Dr Amore's study also uncovered the number of children 15 and under who are classed as homeless was close to 10,000.

"There are minors, children, sometimes on their own, but often with their family," says Dr Amore.

Discovering this last number in the 2013 census data, she predicts the number of homeless could have risen since.

Who are the homeless in New Zealand?

It was in 2009 that Statistics New Zealand, Housing New Zealand and the Ministry of Social Development produced a definition for homelessness in New Zealand.

It defines homelessness as: "Living situations where people with no other options to acquire safe and secure housing are either without shelter, in temporary accommodation, sharing accommodations or living in uninhabitable housing".

This includes those sleeping rough, in cars and people who are in boarding houses, camping grounds and staying in other’s lounges or garages.

"For most people we're not talking about home ownership, we're talking about accessing a place to rent so anyone who can't access a place to rent is homeless," says Dr Amore.

Although rough sleeping and families living in their cars have become the picture of what homelessness looks like in New Zealand, 70 per cent of the homeless population are living in overcrowded conditions.

"There's only a small portion of the population sleeping on the streets. Half of the overall population are under 25, so it's a lot of young people, young families."

Nearly half of the population are women and a quarter are aged 15 to 24-years-old.

What causes someone to become homeless?

Dr Amore says homelessness is largely about affordability of housing for those on low incomes with nearly half of the homeless population in work or study.

"We know if there was a plentiful supply of affordable housing we wouldn’t have a homeless problem."

Other causes of homelessness are low incomes, care and support failures and for a small proportion personal circumstances.

Homeless numbers on the rise

The next census data should reveal the current number of New Zealand's homeless population which Dr Amore says could exceed the estimated 41,000 number.

"I hate to speculate, but since 2013 there are things that have happened that make us suspect that it's worsened."

Growth in population, the shortage of homes especially in Auckland and surging house prices have largely contributed to this.

"We know from population growth and demand on housing overall that the gap in the number of new dwellings we need to house the population is at least that number in Auckland."

This is despite there being enough dwellings in New Zealand to house the total population.

"It's not a lack of housing per say it's just that it's not equitably distributed with some people having multiple houses while some people have none."

Dr Amore says both governments have worked hard to address the issue of homelessness but that the number is "many times" higher than they currently building for.

"It's a great start, but we know that the need is every day growing and growing."

There’s no official record of how many Kiwis are homeless, however census data gives an estimate of those without a home. Source: 1 NEWS