14 Aug 2014

Foreman fined over logging death

8:43 pm on 14 August 2014

The foreman of a logging gang has been fined and ordered to pay reparation following the death of a young worker.

Robert Ruri-Epapara, 23, was crushed by a tree felled in the Waione Forest, near Rotorua, in March last year.

The foreman, Major Nelson, felled the tree without knowing whether any workers were nearby.

The 26-year-old pleaded guilty at the Rotorua District Court on Wednesday to failing to take all practical steps to ensure worker safety.

Nelson was fined $35,000 and ordered to pay reparation of $15,000, to be divided amongst the dead man's parents and partner.

Judge Chris McGuire told Nelson says the lack of communication with workers on the ground was to blame.

"In the circumstances that day, given the absence of radio sets for everyone, nothing short of seeing with your own eyes where the person was could have completely prevented this tragedy."

Judge McGuire said it was a case of complacency.

Complete Logging, which Nelson part owns, was ordered to pay $135,000 in a fine and reparation when it appeared in court in January.

Judge McGuire was highly critical of the time it took to get the case to court, saying everyone involved was the loser in such a delay including the victim's family and the accused.

"I cannot understand why these matters have to take so long, " he said.

A focused investigation should be able to be completed within three months and absolutely no longer than nine months, the judge said. If a number of different investigations need to be done, they should occur concurrently.

But Worksafe New Zealand, which brought the prosecution, said it's not to blame for the delay in getting the case to court.

Worksafe said Nelson initially pleaded not guilty, which put the case on a longer track within the court system, he only changed his plea recently.