Forestry companies fined $756,000: WorkSafe prosecution follows East Coast fatality

An East Coast forestry fatality has resulted in two companies being fined $756,000, following a WorkSafe prosecution.

Danielle Henry, WorkSafe’s area manager, said the tragedy could have been avoided and she released the outcome of court proceedings.

Gisborne-based Pakiri Logging was fined $468,000. Ernslaw One – listed in Overseas Investment Office applications as being 89 per cent Malaysian and the remaining Singaporean controlled – was fined $288,000.

Ernslaw One engaged Pakiri for harvesting at West Ho forest in Tolaga Bay but in early 2019, a Pakiri break out worker was struck by a log being hauled out of the valley on a skyline cable, Henry said.

He died at the scene as a result of his injuries.

A WorkSafe investigation found both companies failed to ensure the dangerous work was being carried out safely.

“Pakiri were not ensuring crew were following correct protocols while breaking out and harvesting work was taking place,” Henry said.

“Our investigation found that the parties’ workers were not abiding to recommended safe retreat distances. At the time of the incident, the victim was 18m to 20m away from the skyline cable when he should have been at least 45m away,” she said.

Audits commissioned by Ernslaw and Pakiri in 2018 highlighted problems with the way a particular break out crew for Pakiri was operating.

Despite issues identified in these audits being available to the companies months prior to the incident, the companies failed to take corrective action, Henry said.

“Had the two companies discussed the audit results as and when they were provided and taken action as a result of the issues identified then this tragic incident could have been avoided. This highlights the importance of clear communication and the need to follow industry practice – especially in a high risk industry, she said.

Pakiri Logging Ltd was fined $468,000 and Ernslaw One was fined $288,000 at the Gisborne District Court.

The companies have been ordered to share in reparations to the families for a total of $238,000.

Ernslaw One says it was formed in 1990 when it purchased the cutting rights to a number of the state forests in the Coromandel, southern North Island, and Otago.

It also purchased the Conical Hill sawmill near Tapanui.

In the mid-1990’s, the forest estate was expanded through the buying of farmland and establishing new plantation forests.

“This growth occurred in three main areas, being Gisborne, southern North Island and Otago-Southland.In 2004, Ernslaw One purchased the cutting rights to the ex-state forests on the East Coast of the North Island from the receivers of Huaguang Forests. In 2008, WPI International was purchased, adding additional forests, a sawmill and a pulp mill in the Ohakune region to the company’s estate,” the company says.

Ernslaw One says it is the fourth largest forest owner in New Zealand with approximately 100,000ha of forest.

The estate is comprised of mainly radiata pine and douglas fir softwood species in privately owned forest and Crown forest Leases in both the North and South Islands.Radiata pine is grown in the North Island at a number of locations including the Coromandel, Gisborne, Ruapehu and Manawatu/Rangitikei regions.Douglas fir and radiata pine are grown at the South Island forest estates in the Southland and Otago regions, the business says.

Pakiri Logging says it is a hauler and ground-based logging operation based in Gisborne.

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