Corporate killing charge 'off the table'

Last updated 05:00 03/12/2013

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Corporate manslaughter legislation is unlikely, Prime Minister John Key says, just days after the year's forestry death toll climbed to nine.

The national concern over forestry worker safety was highlighted when one of New Zealand's largest forest owners, Hancock Forest Management, called a meeting with workers yesterday to discuss health and safety, admitting "our safety system is broken".

In addition to the nine deaths, 90 people have been badly hurt in forestry accidents this year.

Justice Minister Judith Collins has been considering the introduction of a corporate manslaughter charge as recommended by the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety in its report issued earlier this year.

Mr Key said yesterday it was off the table.

Instead, forest managers had to take more responsibility and the Government was putting more onus on them through inspections carried out by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, he said.

But a spokesman for Ms Collins said yesterday that she was still investigating the charge and awaiting advice on corporate liability and how those matters might be handled.

Mr Key denied the forestry sector was "an industry in crisis", ruling out a government inquiry, but he admitted concern. "I think in my view it's an industry that needs to be taking workplace more seriously and they clearly need to change and we are trying to enforce that change."

Of the 150 cable-logging operators visited as part of the audits so far, inspectors have issued 182 enforcement notices and shut down 14 operations because of imminent danger of injury or death.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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