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Sandra Lee Crown Organisations Bill Speech

Hon Sandra Lee
EMBARGOED UNTIL DELIVERY

CROWN ORGANISATIONS (CRIMINAL LIABILITY) BILL
FIRST READING SPEECH NOTES
[Please check against delivery]


Mr Speaker,

Ki te hunga kua mene atu
ki ngâ Hawaiki katoa
nâ te roimata ngâtahi e whakaea

To those who have departed
to Hawaiki, to paradise,
We pay solemn tribute,
and remember them with tears entwined.

Thirteen Tai Poutini Polytech students and a Department of Conservation staff member lost their lives after the DOC viewing platform they were on collapsed at Cave Creek, just over six years ago.
As Minister of Conservation, I have inherited the commitment of my predecessors Denis Marshall, Simon Upton and Nick Smith to ensure that such an incident never happens again.
So it is appropriate that I should speak today, during the introduction of this Bill to implement the last outstanding recommendation of Judge Noble's report.

Cave Creek was a terrible tragedy.
I acknowledge the young lives that were lost, I acknowledge the lost opportunities, the futures curtailed.
I acknowledge the grief and pain of the families of those who died.
I acknowledge the work and dedication of the emergency services and in particular their West Coast staff.
I acknowledge the place that the people who died have in the memories and hearts of our nation.
Cave Creek was a tragedy for all New Zealand.
This Bill seeks to ensure that such a tragedy will not happen again.

Judge Noble recommended that both the Building Act and the Health and Safety in Employment Act should be amended to remove the exemption of the Crown from prosecution.
He could see no reason why the Crown should be treated any differently from any other organisation.
He found that DOC as an organisation had acted unlawfully.
He found that DOC’s staff were working within a system that was fatally flawed.
He said it was a case of "systemic failure".
This Bill seeks to prevent such failure.
It aims to provide incentives for the agencies that are part of the Crown to avoid instances of systemic failure.
I welcome the measures introduced today because they strengthen the incentives for good management.

But they are only part of what needed to happen.
The tragedy of Cave Creek imposed a heavy moral burden on the Department of Conservation, which it has carried to this day.
The concept of atonement is not new.
To say sorry, not just through words but also through deeds.
The reorganisation of the Department of Conservation was clearly needed.
That has been carried out.
A system of robust accountabilities has been put in place, and the work culture of DOC now incorporates conscious accountability.
The present face of DOC is very much a result of the changes made in response to the Cave Creek disaster.

Judge Noble noted in his report that DOC was ‘…biting the bullet and admitting responsibility for the collapse and then actively working to close the hole in its framework’.
By the release of the Noble report, DOC had already prepared an engineering and design standards document, in consultation with expert engineers.
It has been using that report to determine appropriate standards for new work and for the grading of structures following engineering inspections carried out in the wake of Cave Creek.
A system of continuous improvement and quality assurance measures has been put in place.

I have full confidence that the DOC of today is a stronger and better organisation than the one found to have failed in 1995. One of the first actions of the Labour-Alliance coalition was to allocate a record $187m in last year's Budget, to re-energise the Department and focus its activities on protecting our unique biodiversity.

Judge Noble at the end of his report said the following:
“It is a tragic quirk of fate that all of those who fell from the platform at Cave Creek had a close affinity with New Zealand’s great outdoors. One was already employed in tending the conservation estate, and the others were the very type of young people to seek similar employment enthusing others.”

This legislation will stand as a memorial to their lives.

Kapiti hono, tâtai hono
Te hunga mate ki te hunga mate
Kapiti hono, tâtai hono
Te hunga ora ki te hunga ora
Tçnâ kotou, tçnâ koutou
Kia ora tâtou katoa

Bind together, unite
The dead to the dead
Bind together, unite
The living to the living
Greetings, Greetings to you
And life's blessing upon us all.


ENDS

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