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Review of Oamaru search and rescue incident

Terms of reference for review of Oamaru search and rescue incident

A review has got underway into the circumstances surrounding the search and rescue response to the boating accident off the Oamaru coast on May 11 2003, with the appointment of a reviewer and agreement on the terms of reference.

John Bowdler, a former Deputy Secretary for Transport in the Australian federal government, arrived in New Zealand yesterday to begin the independent review of the search and rescue processes following the accident where three men drowned and two were rescued after their fishing boat was swamped by waves.

The Transport Minister Paul Swain says "the purpose of this review is not to allocate fault to any party, but to provide a prompt investigation and if necessary to recommend any changes to current search and rescue arrangements or procedures".

On May 13 Mr Swain instructed the newly formed New Zealand Search and Rescue Council to investigate the incident, and the Council has now approved the terms of reference for the review.

Mr Swain says the terms of reference are: -

To gain an understanding of the sequence and times of events in the search and rescue response to the incident of 11 May 2003; To ascertain whether the current search and rescue arrangements and procedures were followed; To ascertain whether the arrangements and procedures are appropriate for an incident of this nature; In the light of the findings of 1 - 3 above, to consider whether the arrangements and procedures need immediate remedial attention; and To make recommendations to the New Zealand Search and Rescue Council, as appropriate, by 31 July 2003.

Mr Swain says the SAR Council approved the terms of reference only after seeking legal advice that the review would not duplicate or pre-empt other inquiries by agencies such as the police, the coroner, or the Maritime Safety Authority.

Mr Swain says "the SAR Council has looked for someone from outside New Zealand to lead the review because of the involvement of so many agencies and organisations in the original incident."

Mr Swain says "it is vital to ensure that any review is free from criticism of conflict of interest, as well as providing a thorough, objective and independent process to evaluate the procedures surrounding the response to the incident."

Mr Bowdler will be provided with an independent technical assistant from Australia, and an independent legal advisor, John Marshall, a practising barrister from Wellington.

The review team has been asked to complete its report by the end of July 2003.

Background Note

The New Zealand Search and Rescue Council first met in April 2003, and comprises the Chief Executives of the Ministry of Transport, the Maritime Safety Authority, the Police, the Civil Aviation Authority, and the Defence Force.

It reports to the Ministers of Transport, Police and Defence.

It replaces the former Search and Rescue Committee, but the Council has additional functions such as providing strategic advice and co-ordination for all search and rescue activities.

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