Wellington's CentrePort has been fined half a million dollars following the death of a worker who fell while undertaking repairs of a container.

The incident happened in January 2017 at the company's container assessment and repair facility.

Teihi Whaanga used a ladder to access the roof of a 2.9m high container to do repairs. He fell and hit his head on the concrete below.

The 60-year-old was taken to Wellington Hospital, put in an induced coma, and later died.


CentrePort was sentenced at Wellington District Court today and ordered to pay $693,426, which includes the fine, reparation to the family and other costs.

However, the total cost to Centreport is just shy of $800,000 after taking into consideration money it's already paid to the family.

In 2015 the company was fined $60,000 following the death of Titahi Bay man and father-of-three Mark Samoa.

He died after being caught between a forklift and cargo in a warehouse in January 2013.

A WorkSafe investigation into the incident before the court today found the port had developed safe working procedures but failed to ensure they were implemented where Whaanga was working.

It also found ladders were not being tied off and those that were in use were in poor repair. There was no edge or fall protection in place to protect workers either.

The incident was foreseeable and avoidable, head of Specialist Interventions Simon Humphries said.

"The tragic death of this worker should serve as a reminder to every business whose workers undertake their duties off the ground that even a fall from a relatively low height can be fatal. This incident is a stark demonstration that complacency has no place in workplace health and safety."


Ben Whaanga read an emotional victim impact statement to the court today.

"My dad was a humble, proud, respectable man who put everyone else first, especially his family.

"He now misses out on meeting his new grandchildren and great grandchildren, something he would have cherished."

He said the incident at the port should never have happened in this day and age, and it was unacceptable this was not the first workplace death at CentrePort.

"If you turn up to do an honest day's work, the minimum expectation is that you should return home safely that evening to your family."

Whaanga was a father of five and stepdad to two, a partner, and a loving koro to all his moko.

He was born in Gisborne before moving to Stoke's Valley as a teenager.

As a father he always made sure there was food on the table for his family, and at times that meant working three jobs.

He was a keen supporter on the sidelines of sport games whether his kids were playing rugby or softball.

Speaking to the Herald ahead of today's sentencing Ben Whaanga said the family hadn't been able to move on through the drawn-out court process following his father's death.

But on Saturday they will unveil his headstone at Akatarawa Cemetery in Upper Hutt.

"We didn't want to do it until we had full closure."

Ben Whaanga is a project manager for a commercial construction company where health and safety is at the forefront of his mind every day, he said.

"That's probably the hardest thing for me to stomach, if I compare what I do at my job to there [CentrePort], those systems should have been in place, it's just a no-brainer."

No other family should have to go through this, he said.

Whaanga's funeral was a large event and was well attended by his fellow workers and union members.

His death was marked in a March 2017 issue of the Rail and Maritime Transport Union journal, which labelled the incident a reminder of how dangerous the industry could be.

"Never second-guess anything. Safety first – and if in doubt, stop. We owe it to our families, our workmates and ourselves that we all go home after a hard day's yakka."

The Maritime Union also paid tribute to Whaanga at the time.

Wellington assistant branch secretary John Whiting said they were more determined than ever to make sure safe work practices were rigorously implemented and enforced.

"We must become our brother's keeper on the job".

CentrePort, in a statement, said it extended its deepest sympathies and remorse to the Whaanga family.

"Port workers continue to think of Teihi every day and his legacy lives on in the ongoing commitment to health and safety on the port," the firm said.