23 Dec 2022

Gore District Council pleads guilty on charge relating to toddler who drowned

1:12 pm on 23 December 2022
Worksafe HQ in Wellington Central

WorkSafe amended a charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act and the council subsequently pleaded guilty. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Gore District Council has pleaded guilty to a charge relating to the drowning of a young child in its oxidation ponds almost four years ago.

Three-year-old Lachlan Jones was found dead in one of the town's sewage oxidation ponds in January 2019.

The council initially pleaded not guilty to a charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

WorkSafe amended the charge and removed an allegation that a serious risk of death arose from the council's breach.

As a result the council this week entered a guilty plea to the reduced charge of failing to perform a duty, Gore District Council chief executive Stephen Parry said.

"As always, our thoughts continue to remain with Lachlan's whānau. His death was a tragedy," Parry said in a brief statement.

The council would not comment further while the matter was before the court.

Lachlan's father did not accept the police account of what occurred and had raised concerns foul play might have been involved.

Police re-examined the case as a result of concerns, but reiterated their belief the toddler drowned in the sewage pond.

The coroner was also investigating the death.