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Pipeline Co Must Pay $213,000 After Lives Lost

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Pipeline Co Must Pay $213,000 After Lives Lost

Christchurch, Dec 14 NZPA - Heron Construction Co Ltd must pay $213,000 in fines and reparations for safety breaches on the day a storm blew up and two men drowned while they were working on Christchurch's off-shore waste pipeline project.

The penalties were set by Judge Raoul Neave in Christchurch District Court today, three months after the company's guilty pleas.

It has been ordered to pay $148,000 reparations to family members and $65,000 in fines.

The decision was welcomed by Maritime New Zealand general manager for maritime services, Sharyn Forsyth, who said it was a tragedy that could have been avoided and companies needed to be mindful of their safety obligations. There was plenty of support available for companies to identify and manage risks.

Heron Construction had changed its operating procedures and now realised that safety was required to be managed to the highest standards, she said.

"MNZ expects that anyone working on challenging projects such as this in the maritime environment meets and maintains the highest safety standards. This includes having the appropriate steps in place to cover all likely eventualities, such as poor weather and the possibility of overdue vessels.

"However, this was clearly not the case on the day, resulting in tragic consequences."

Judge Neave said there were significant gaps in the system which were not filled in time and which should not have been permitted. "There were risks that ought not have been run."

The company had admitted a charge under the Health and Safety in Employment Act of failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of its employees and contractors at work.

It also admitted that an inflatable Naiad that was lost at sea -- the Mugwop -- did not hold a valid safe ship management certificate at the time.

The accident happened on October 28, last year, when a southerly storm blew up and the Naiad headed for Lyttelton with two men aboard, Jody Campbell, 29, from South Auckland, and Tony Utteridge, 39, from Lyttelton.

The men's bodies were recovered, but the boat has never been found.

"We still don't know the exact circumstances in which the Mugwop came to grief," said the judge.

The partner of Mr Campbell, Nikki Douglas, read her victim impact statement in court and said the couple had been working for financial security for their family. They had two young boys who now had photographs of their father beside their beds. They would kiss the photograph and tell him they loved him every night.

"Jody loved the job and the people he worked with and the people he worked for," she told the court. "He talked about his workmates all the time. I find it very hard to hold any hostility towards these people he spoke so highly of."

Crown prosecutor Brent Stanaway said the company's position was it had been acting as a Good Samaritan when another contractor got into difficulty in the storm. But the company had the same safety obligations to its workers whether it was acting as a Good Samaritan or not.

Defence counsel Garth Gallaway said the risk "clearly wasn't appreciated by anyone".

Since then the company had employed someone to ensure it complied with safe ship management requirements, he said.

The company will have to pay $60,000 reparations to each family, and $28,000 to repay a loan that one of the men had from a family member.


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