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Metrowater Cleared In Sewer Accident

Auckland City water and wastewater utility company Metrowater was today cleared in relation to a 1999 sewer accident that claimed the lives of three men.

Auckland District Court Judge Nicola Mathers today dismissed all charges against Metrowater, saying there was no case to answer.

The Department of Labour had contended that Metrowater had failed to take all practicable steps to prevent harm to employees and contractors.

In her decision, Judge Mathers said that at the end of the prosecution case she had had difficulty pinning down what practicable steps OSH was saying Metrowater should have taken.

She said it was important not to be led into the trap of hindsight. Metrowater's high standards of health and safety were uncontested. Judge Mathers found that Metrowater had not just been content to leave its contractor Stargate responsible for health and safety, but had taken the further step of introducing a random audit process.

"No reasonable court could safely convict Metrowater," she said.

Metrowater Chief Executive Graham Coxhead said he was relieved that the company had been cleared.

"This was a tragic accident that has shaken our whole industry internationally. Manholes are always dangerous and we take every step possible to protect the safety of our staff and contractors. We are relieved that the Court has confirmed that we did all we could have. We grieve for the families and colleagues of the three men who died," he said.

Ends

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