Logging operator described as 'cowboy'

Last updated 12:04 13/05/2014

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A former forest manager has described Great Lake Harvesting as a "cowboy" logging gang after one of its trainees was killed on the job.

Health and safety investigator Lynda West made the comment to Coroner Dr Wallace Bain in Rotorua this morning, as part of evidence against the logging gang.

The coroner's inquiry into eight forestry deaths opened yesterday and resumed in the Coroner's Court this morning.

Six of the eight original cases were adjourned at the outset because they had legal action pending.
That left the deaths of Reece Reid and Robert Thompson to be heard.

West told the coroner she believed Reid, a novice tree-feller from Whanganui, was told to start cutting down trees south of Dannevirke until his experienced supervisor Michael Thomas, who was hauling logs at the time, could meet him.

In her opinion, West said Great Lake Harvesting's director Murray Clunie would have directed Reid, who had just a few days tree-felling experience, to begin cutting without the direct supervision required. She also believed Reid had felled trees unsupervised before.

Clunie said yesterday that he said he asked Reid to go to the cutting face and wait for supervision before felling started, and Reid had broken the rules.

Reid was described as having respect for the forest and West did not believe he would have started felling unless he was told to.

She based her opinion on notes taken on November 27, 2012, the day of Reid's death, which recorded that Reid was asked to go to the face and start cutting until his supervisor arrived.

West described a range of health and safety breaches. The cause, she said, was a lack of knowledge, skills, and understanding of the health and safety requirements rather than a flippant stance on health and safety.

The previous employer of Clunie, Ernslaw One Ltd, after hearing of Reid's death, provided West with a statement about previous health and safety concerns as well as use of inexperienced staff.

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