Four schools in the Rotorua area have had to dispose of science equipment that has been recalled as a result of an asbestos scare.

A product recall of the gauze mats used with Bunsen burners resulted in at least one Rotorua school, Rotorua Lakes High School, closing its science labs for just over two days.

Other schools affected were Kaharoa School, John Paul College and Western Heights High School.

Rotorua Lakes High School was believed to be the only school locally that took the extra step to close the labs and get their own testing.


The schools had been told the mats, which had a ceramic centre, might contain a rare form of asbestos. The schools had been asked to carefully package them, according to instructions, and store them safely until the supplier collects them.

The ministry had been advised the mats contained the rare Tremolite asbestos.

The mat was a bonded product, similar to asbestos sheeting in houses, and was considered low risk provided the mats were in good condition.

However, Rotorua Lakes High School principal Bruce Walker said his school didn't think simply removing the mats was going far enough and closed the labs until they got their own results back from tests.

Walker said the results confirmed today there was no asbestos present in the mats, although they were still awaiting the results of air taken from within the labs.

However, he said given the mats were given the all clear, they were comfortable the air would be clean also and reopened the labs from second period, just after 10am today.

Walker said he had received several messages from students and parents who were pleased the school took the matter seriously.

The ministry has confirmed 113 schools nationwide had been supplied the mats since April 2016.

Ministry spokeswoman Katrina Casey said it was important to note not all suppliers of the products had yet been identified.

"We will continue to work with the appropriate agencies to identify all suppliers and schools with this product. The wellbeing of our students and staff is paramount, so if any school has ceramic Bunsen burner gauze mats, they should contact their supplier who may be able to provide product testing results."

One of the several suppliers that had recalled the products, which the Rotorua Daily Post has decided not to name as they were potentially one of many suppliers, said they were surprised when they learned the initial tests of the mats had found asbestos.

He said the business immediately recalled all the products sold since April 2016, even though it was possible only one shipment of the mats, which came from China, was affected.

"We are trying hard to do the right thing. We will provide replacement mats for the schools and pay for any disposal costs."

He said the business had a long-term base of school customers and they stood by their company values of integrity, quality and being cost competitive.

"We were as surprised as they [the schools] were to find that stuff in our products."

Another supplier that had recalled products said they had no reason to believe any of their gauzes contained asbestos and all action was precautionary.

"We are dealing in the appropriate and required manner with the parties mentioned above, and have nothing more to say on the matter except to them."

Western Heights High School deputy principal Lyn Henshilwood said the school had followed the advice from the ministry to package the mats.

"The ministry advised us that there was very low risk to students and staff who had been using these mats. We were concerned enough at the mention of asbestos in the ministry email to act immediately. We will follow any further advice from the ministry in this matter," she said.

The Rotorua Daily Post had approached John Paul College and Kaharoa School for comment.

Bay of Plenty schools supplied the mats
Western Heights High School
John Paul College
Kaharoa School
Tauranga Girls' College
Whakatane Intermediate
Rotorua Lakes High School
Otumoetai College
Aquinas College