On November 29 in 2010, 27 men died in the Pike River mine explosion.

As a result, the Health and Safety laws in NZ were overhauled to ensure that those who have the responsibility for a business or organisation and who can make and or influence change are now held accountable for their actions or inactions.

This also applies to any other persons, internal or external to the organisation that could be influenced by their actions or, decisions.

The buck now stops at the top, accountability is now more visible, or as the Chinese quote says, "A fish never rots from the tail"


Twelve months ago, the Havelock North water contamination happened. There has been a lot of speculation, comment and publicity about this culminating in a good summary in Saturday's paper but what can we learn from it?

The one salient point that has never been disclosed or stated is who is ultimately responsible for this disaster? No one person or persons have been held accountable, why?

The similarity between this event and the Pike River tragedy is that those in the HDC who had authority to influence change for the safety of others, ignored the concerns, even though they had been repeatedly told over many years by their staff and others of the potential water safety problems.

Was this because of a "glass ceiling" management culture in the HDC?

In management speak, a "glass ceiling effect" is when those on the lower levels of an organisation or members of the public attempt to make known and voice their concerns up to the higher levels of the organisation or business.

Too often they can see what's above them but hit an invisible, impervious glass ceiling of inherent bureaucracy and are ignored.

Is this what has happened?

Following the initial hearing that identified the shortfall of HDC water management systems, the best that mayor Yule and his CEO could do was to cast blame on others in the lower levels of management and tell the world that heads may role, shameful.

When you point the finger of blame at others, never forget that there are always three fingers pointing back at you. There are now many fingers being extended their way.

Under the new 2015 Health and safety legislation Lawrence Yule and the elected council members are exempt from prosecution or any action taken against the council. However, they still have a duty of care to ensure that the council complies with its duties or obligations under the Local Government Act 2002 and the Health and Safety legislation and regulations.

Is this a Health and Safety Issue?

In my opinion it is. The HN travesty was a commercial and public health and safety issue, so where has Work Safe NZ (WSNZ) been during this notifiable incident?

In the triage stage of the event, the DHB and other health services were involved but what about the corporate responsibilities following the enquiries.

If this event had of been caused by any business in NZ, then WSNZ would have been all over them like a rash.

Three weeks ago, I wrote to Worksafe NZ and asked this question, I have yet to receive a formal written response.

Why have WSNZ been conspicuous by their absence? Why not or is there another reason?

Is this a case of political interference?

Lawrence Yule is now the aspiring National party member for the Tuki Tuki electorate.
Did the Government stop WSNZ from getting involved or to investigating the Havelock North contamination event?

If this is the case, was this to save Lawrence Yule the embarrassment of having a potential prosecution being taken against the council while on his watch?

Do we have another Pike River cover up on our hands?

I hope not for the sake of the Havelock North families and the businesses affected because of water contamination and for the 27 Pike River miners whose untimely deaths brought about change to make those in positions of authority accountable for their actions.

A positive outcome of the HN event is that it has been a massive wake up call for all NZ councils to review their water management processes and not to become complacent when it comes to their responsibilities and duty of care for those they are elected to serve, their ratepayers.

Gordon Anderson has been advising and training Hawke's Bay businesses on health and safety and quality systems in a private capacity since 1993 and writes on the subject for several national magazines. Views expressed here are the writer's opinion and not the newspaper's. Email: editor@hbtoday.co.nz