WorkSafe New Zealand Welcomes Laurenson Review Recommendations

WorkSafe New Zealand has today welcomed the recommendations in the “Review of WorkSafe New Zealand’s Performance of its Regulatory Functions in Relation to Activities on Whakaari White Island.” This review was commissioned by the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and was carried out by David Laurenson QC.

“The tragic loss of 22 lives and the ongoing injuries and trauma sustained in the eruption of Whakaari White Island in December 2019 continue to affect us all, and in particular I acknowledge the ongoing impact on individuals and their whānau,” said Phil Parkes, WorkSafe NZ Chief Executive. “They remain in our thoughts and motivate our determination to do better.”

“WorkSafe accepts that there were significant shortcomings in our implementation and enforcement of the Adventure Activities Regulations in relation to adventure activities on Whakaari. We deeply regret that and I am fully committed to improving our performance by addressing the review’s recommendations.

“Most notably we accept the review finding that we should have moved faster to enforce the registration of a helicopter operator who was resisting registration under the Health and Safety at Work (Adventure Activities) Regulations. We particularly welcome the review’s recommendation to extend the existing regulatory scheme to introduce a group of independent technical experts, identified by an appropriate industry body, who would be available as an extra layer of assurance for the safety audits of adventure activity operators on Whakaari.

“When I announced WorkSafe was filing charges against 13 parties in relation to the eruption I said ‘this was an unexpected event, but that does not mean it was unforeseeable’.

“Adventure activities, by their very nature, carry risk. Operators have the primary legal duty to keep people as safe as they can while taking part in adventure activities. WorkSafe has the duty under the regulations to ensure that Operators apply for registration so they can be subjected to independent audit of their systems. We are committed to working with the adventure activities sector to improve how risks are being managed to ensure safety of workers and participants.

“WorkSafe has a vision of an Aotearoa New Zealand where everyone comes home from work healthy and safe. We will continue to work with businesses, workers and communities to achieve that vision,” Parkes said.

WorkSafe is unable to engage in public discussion on details of the review, to respect the right of all parties to a fair trial and ensure court processes are respected in the prosecutions which it has commenced following the Whakaari tragedy.

The independent review is available on MBIE’s website(external link).

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