The Department of Labour is
prosecuting the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre of New
Zealand (OPC) over the Mangatepopo Gorge accident that claimed seven
The six students and their teacher, from Auckland’s Elim
Christian College died, when they were hit by a torrent of water
while canyoning near Turangi on April 15 this year.
“The Department considers that there were steps OPC should have
taken to better ensure the safety of the group on the day,” said
Mike Munnelly, the Department of Labour’s Central Region Manager of
Health and Safety Services.
OPC chairman Rupert Wilson told the Stuff website that the
tragedy had been a “terrible time for everyone” and safety was the
centre’s “paramount consideration”.
“We believe that our risk analysis, safety and staff training
systems are up to … world best practice for the outdoor education
“Losing seven lives is a tragedy beyond belief and the
Department of Labour is doing what it thinks is right,” Wilson
The Department is required to investigate when people are
seriously injured or killed in the workplace.
Four charges were laid today under the Health and Safety in
Employment Act 1992.
Two charges related to OPC’s obligations to protect the
instructor who went into the gorge with the students and teacher.
The third related to OPC’s obligation to ensure that its
employee’s actions didn’t expose others to avoidable risks.
The fourth charge relates to OPC’s obligation to appropriately
ensure the safety of other people in the place of work.
The charges were laid in the Wellington District Court, but will
be filed in the Taumarunui District Court – the closest court to
OPC’s registered head office and the scene of the incident. The
first hearing is likely to be in four to six weeks.
No other charges will be laid.
Munnelly said the department wanted to acknowledge the
tremendous dignity and strength shown by the victims’ families and
friends, and by the survivors, despite the trauma they had suffered.
“Prosecution action is not commenced lightly by the Department, and
we appreciate that this is a difficult time for everyone involved in
this tragic event.”
“But seven people lost their lives that day and several others
were put in serious danger. So it is important that someone is
required to answer what the Department says were failures to better
ensure the safety of the group. Our hope is that this prosecution
may help prevent others from suffering a similar loss in future.”
As this matter is now before the court no interviews or further
comment will be provided.